Dwight Yoakam, Buck Owens : The Streets of Bakersfield

‘I came here looking for something I couldn’t find anywhere else’.

Note – The YouTube clips below all play in the UK. If corporate powers block them where you are i am sure you can find alternative clips for the songs.

Where you headed?

The answer is sometimes geographical, sometimes metaphorical and sometimes aspirational.

Down the road a piece.

Over the hills and far away.

Off these corkscrew hillbilly highways to the broad Freeway.

I might need two pair of shoes but I’m walking to New Orleans.

Kansas City – they got some pretty little women there and I’m gonna get me one.

High over Albuquerque on a jet to the Promised Land.

New York, New York – if I can make it there I can make it anywhere!

Sometimes you move for the most basic of reasons – to find a job that pays well.

Especially if you’ve grown up somewhere where the jobs are few and everyone treats you like a nobody.

Get yourself a good job that pays real folding green and you get a chance to be yourself.

Write your own story.

So, pack your grip (who did you ever know who had a trunk) and head off for the desert heat and the oilfields of the San Joaquin Valley.

Head out for the Streets of Bakersfield!

Image result for bakersfield images 1960s

Bakersfield.

Now, if you’ve got a broad back and two strong arms and plenty of nerve there’s work a plenty in the Oil Fields.

Work a plenty.

Guys here from Oklahoma, Arkansas and The Appalachians.

Guess it’s a new migration.

And, when your days work is done, with a bulging wallet, you can take those sore muscles down to a Bar or Roadhouse where the beer flows freely and dive into that Whisky River any time you feel like it.

Image result for bakersfield images 1960s

Now, you’ve come to drink and dance and it won’t be you who starts a fight .. but if it starts you ain’t gonna be hugging the wall.

Mister, I don’t care if you don’t like me.

Yea, I’ve spent a night or two in the can and I ain’t proud of everything I’ve done.

But, better not think that you can judge me – not unless you’ve walked these streets of Bakersfield.

No, turn the music up good and loud and let’s have ourselves a real fine time!

Drop a coin into The Jukebox and clear the floor.

Don’t want any of that weepy, air conditioned Nashville Sound.

No, something that’s got drive and bite.

Telecasters and Drums, Fiddle and Steel, enough to really shake a hard wood floor.

Songs that move and tell a story you know is true.

Don’t worry about tomorrow’s hangover – it’ll be worth it for the time we’ve had.

The Bakersfield Sound and no one is more Bakersfield than Buck Owens.

Buck and The Buckeroos – now that’s a blazin’ Band!

 

Embed from Getty Images

*

Hell, you could fill a Jukebox just with Buck Hits and dance without stoppin’ until the Sun comes up again.

‘Act Naturally’, ‘My Heart Skips a Beat’, ‘Tiger by the Tail’, ‘Together Again’, ‘Buckaroo’, ‘Waitin’ in the Welfare Line’, ‘Love’s Gonna Live Here’ and ‘Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass’.

Jimmy, the Bar Keep, who knows everything about Buck says he’s racked up 20 Number One Country Hits and he ain’t done yet.

Funny enough the Buck song that I punched more than any other on The Jukebox barely made it to the Charts under his own name.

Maybe by ’73 the caravan had passed Buck by.

Still, if I’ve got to pick one Buck song it’s always gonna be, ‘The Streets Of Bakersfield’.

That’s a true Workin’ Man’s Song!

I’ve spent a thousand miles a-thumbin’

I’ve worn blisters on my heels

Trying to find me something better on the streets of Bakersfield

You don’t know me but you don’t like me – you care less how I feel

But how many of you who sit and judge me ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?

The Streets of Bakersfield?

Sing it Buck.

Sing it good and loud!

Now, there’s quite a story about how the song came to be recorded.

It was written by Homer Joy in November 1972 when he came to Buck’s Bakersfield Studio hoping to record some of the songs he had written after he had churned out a Hank Williams tribute disc.

Image result for homer joy songwriter images

Except, after the Hank record was done he found that the Studio was blocked booked by Buck himself rehearsing for a tour.

Though Homer turned up every day at 8am ready to record he was told, day after day, ”Come back tomorrow’ and there was nothing for it but to grow even more blisters walking the streets of Bakersfield!

Eventually Homer’s patience snapped and the taken aback Studio Manager said:

‘OK, OK, play me one of these songs you think are so great and I’ll see what I can do’.

Fired up, Homer launched into a new song, written in sheer frustration at his current situation, ‘The Streets of Bakersfield’.

Now, some songs just hit you right between the eyes and this was one.

That very night Homer played the song to Buck and before you know it Buck had recorded it – featuring it on his 1973 Album, ‘Is Not It Amazing Gracie’.

But, though everyone recognised this was one damn fine song it didn’t make the wide world stand up and applaud.

So, it seemed Homer wouldn’t get the fat payday every struggling songwriter hopes is just around the corner if only a big star would record one of your songs.

Yet, as The Jukebox will never tire of saying:

 ‘A true message always gets through – sometime it just takes a while’.

And, this message, got through some 15 years later through the intervention of Jukebox favourite, Dwight Yoakam.

Embed from Getty Images

*

Dwight, as a proper classicist, had always been a big fan of Buck’s music and had derived much inspiration from the straight to the heart and gut twang of the Bakersfield Sound.

He was therefore immensely pleased to learn that Buck approved of his sound and was keeping a watchful eye on his fledgling career.

Buck, by the late 80’s was seemingly more or less retired never having fully recovered from the tragic death of his right hand man, Don Rich.

The lightning and thunder that they had created together was gone.

But, talking with Dwight and listening to his sound convinced Buck that maybe, just maybe, there might be one more rumble and bolt yet.

Embed from Getty Images

*

So, get in the Studio, crank up the voltage, have Pete Anderson pick that Tele fast and sweet,  have those drums really kickin’, add some norteno accordion (no one better than Flaco Jimenez), swop charismatic vocals and I do believe we got ourselves a monster Hit!

That’ll be the 21st Number One for Buck and the very first for Dwight!

Alright Dwight! Thank You Buck!

Jukebox devotees will know I love my Boots and I gotta say my Dan Post Okeechobee Westerns got to do some serious stompin’ there!

Image result for Dan Post 13 okeechobee boots images

The respect and admiration Dwight and Buck had for each other was real and enduring giving a fillip to both their careers.

Looking at the live clip below you can’t not be swept away by the sheer joy of music making.

Both of them being themselves and having a real fine time.

I came here looking for something …..

In memory of Buck Owens 1929-2006 and Homer Joy 1945-2012.

Buck Owens :

Buck was a great singles artist so I always have the 3 Volumes of his Capitol Singles covering the period 1957 to 1975 close at hand.

Satisfaction absolutely guaranteed!

Thank You Buck – always.

Note :

Check out Youtube for a fabulous live version featuring Dwight and Ry Cooder.

 

Bobby Darin : Tragedy, Trauma & Triumph – Dream Lover

It’s a one time shot, this life, and you don’t get any second chances’ 

‘Boy, I’m pressing my luck – but I’m going to double up!’

‘I’ll go to sleep and dream again, that’s the only thing to do, Till all my lover’s dreams come true’.

Embed from Getty Images

*

Tragedy :

How long have you got before the grim reaper swings his sharp scythe?

A lot longer, we all hope, whatever age we are now.

Not so for Bobby Darin who lived from childhood with the consciousness that because of heart problems it was no good planning for the long term.

Because, at any time, probably soon, his heart would give up the battle and beat no more.

This in the bones knowledge gave him a ferocious, ‘don’t tell me what I can or can’t do’, determination to extract the last full measure from his prodigious talents and have a hell of a time while doing so!

In the end all Bobby got was 450 months.

A little over 37 years before Death came a calling.

I think we might all agree there is a tragic element to such a life.

Trauma

In addition to spending a great deal of his childhood with the pain of rheumatic fever and the dread that death might creep up on him at any moment Bobby Darin discovered just after his marriage to Sandra Dee had ended that the bedrock of his life – his relationships with his Mother and Sister had been based on an elaborate lie.

Bobby had thought his Father was Saverio Antonio “Big Sam Curly” Cassotto, who had died in prison before his birth.

But, Big Sam was not Darin’s Father.

In fact Bobby would go to his grave never knowing the identity of his real Father.

He would die knowing the identity of his Mother and Grandmother but he would have to come to terms with the knowledge that the beloved Sister of his youth was in fact his Mother and the adored Mother who had brought him up was in fact his Grandmother!

I think we can properly say those were traumatic circumstances which would leave a deep brand on the psyche.

Triumph

450 Months.

37 Years.

How much can you achieve in the time?

Well, the statisticians will tell you that he had 22 Billboard Top 40 Hits with 2 of those hitting the Number One spot and three further discs lodging in the top 5 – success which was replicated all around the record buying world.

Rock ‘n’ Roll novelties like, ‘Splish, Splash’ and, ‘Queen of the Hop’ which immediately took up residence in your brain and had you singing your own karaoke version as you travelled to school.

Swingin’ Big Band belters like, ‘Mack The Knife’ (Sinatra, not given to extravagant compliments dubbed Bobby’s version definitive) and, ‘Beyond The Sea’ which won him kudos from professional musicians and several generations of fans senior to him.

Blues drenched workouts like his version of Ray Charles’ ‘What’d I Say’.

Folk Rock tender tones like his version of Tim Hardin’s, ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ and his own, ‘Simple Song of Freedom’.

Oh, and he acted in more than a dozen movies writing two full scores and five title songs.

And, he broke the house attendance records in a string of Las Vegas’ clubs outdrawing legends of show business with decades more experience and exposure.

He seemed to be permanently in the studio when he wasn’t on the road or on the TV or Film Set.

Top selling Album followed Album in every imaginable style – Pop, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Broadway Shows, Folk and Singer-Songwriter and storming finger clickin’, jive talkin’, audience rousin’ live shows.

Bobby Darin never limited his ambition and worked obsessively to meet and surpass those ambitions.

Researching this post I was taken aback at the depth and breadth of his talent and resolved that there will have to be many more Posts here about him if I am to do justice to the scale of his achievements.

Yet, when I think of Bobby Darin I always come back to one song – Dream Lover.

Dream Lover, written by Bobby, was the song that turned him from a here today/forgotten tomorrow teen sensation into a songwriter and performer for the ages.

If you can write a song which calls out to every yearning innocent heart (and we all once had and remember our innocent heart) you are certain of immortality.

Every night I hope and pray a dream lover will come my way.

I want a dream lover so I don’t have to dream alone.

Dream lover where are you?

Some day, I don’t know how.

And the hand that I can hold to feel you near as I grow old.

Until then I’ll go to sleep and dream again.

Till all my lover’s dreams come true.

Till all my lover’s dreams come true.

There’s nobody alive or dead who hasn’t hoped and prayed a dream lover would come their way.

Bobby Darin’s song writing career properly started out of a tiny office (more accurately a broom cupboard) he shared with Nick Venet in New York’s legendary Brill Building.

Riding in the lift or seated at the lunch counter you might find yourself next to Carole King, Burt Bacharach or Leiber & Stoller (love those Latin rhythms they use!).

Songs, Hits about to Hit, filed the corridors, who’s that pudgy kid on the piano – Neil Sedaka you say – OK let’s remember him if we ever get to make a record.

So, Bobby began to dream of a song, a yearning song. with a Latin rhythm, which incorporated the sweetness of Doo-Wop and the drive of Rock ‘n Roll.

That’s when he made the wonderful Demo below featuring the guitar of Fred Neil.

There’s a tender magic about this version which I find immensely affecting.

Bobby’s singing his heart out here.

Dream lover where are you?

 

This Demo convinced the powers that be at Atlantic Records (Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler) that there was a huge Hit here.

So ace Engineer Tom Dowd was at the board as Neil Sedaka played the piano and Bobby sang for all his worth.

Number 2 in the US. Number 1 for 4 weeks in the UK.

And, a song that’s had hundreds of covers though none can match Bobby (that said look out for Rick nelson’s take).

Dream Lover is one of those songs that’s always hovering somewhere in your heart.

As soon as it emerges from the ether you’ll find yourself, with a wry smile on your face, remembering that innocent heart, singing :

Every night I hope and pray a dream lover will come my way …….

 

 

In memory of Walden Robert Cassotto (Bobby Darin) May 1936 to December 1973.

Sleep well Bobby, sleep well.

 

Celebrating Charlie Watts : Certainty in an uncertain world – Get off my Cloud!

All around it seems like anything can happen including so many things we thought could never happen.

Ice caps melting.

Tornadoes and typhoons out of nowhere.

Forest fire raging, raging, raging.

High water everywhere.

Is there nothing you can absolutely rely on?

Well, a glance at today’s calendar reminded me that the great Charlie Watts was born on June 2nd 1941 and is thus now 78 years old.

And, while, who knows, the Pyramids may tumble tomorrow there can be no doubt that when The Rolling Stones Hit the stage in Chicago in June they and everyone in the audience can be sure of one thing – the majesty of The Stones Sound will be founded on the utter reliability of Charlie Watt’s glorious drumming.

So, I am reblogging my tribute from the very earliest days of The Jukebox (with a birthday bonus track).

Happy Birthday Charlie!

Charlie Watts, gentleman, scholar and drummer at large was 73 this year. Here’s a short tribute.

http://Embed from Getty Images

Famously, at the live show captured on Get Your Ya Yas Out Mick Jagger informs the patrons that,’Charlie’s good tonight ain’t he!’. Well yes Mick he certainly was and then some.

Charlie Watts has been the heartbeat of the Rolling Stones for half a century and more providing calm craft in the midst of all the hoopla and madness.

While he has surely seen about everything a man can see he has remained steadfastly and stoically himself.

A wry, unimpressable observer who loves to listen to his beloved jazz and play the drums with the scratchy rhythm and blues band who somewhat to his amazement transformed themselves into the greatest rock and roll band the planet has ever produced.

Charlie’s role in the band is crucial to the DNA of the band’s unique sound.

Keith is released to sway and swagger to his heart’s content because Charlie is always there behind him urging him on and on while being ready to catch him if like an over ambitious trapeze flyer it looks like he might fall.

Whatever else has changed that partnership has endured and thrived through the years ensuring the distinctive leery vitality of the band remains in rude good health

One of the many glories of the Stones is the majestic way in which they build and hold tension in their rockers – say Tumbling Dice or Brown Sugar.

You’ll notice how groups covering the Stones almost always rush and ruin the songs because they can’t match the rhythmic control marshalled by Charlie.

While he is the engineer driving the awesome power of the Stones streamliner in full flight he is also the brakeman making sure they make it round the sharp turns safely and arrive on time at their destination.

The listening audience are taken up, held and thrilled as the band, anchored by Charlie, progress through their set taking care to pace themselves – allowing ballad breaks before the celebrated avalanche ending sends everybody home exhausted and elated.

Charlie Watts is the zen master of rock drumming.

His inherent restraint, informed by the jazz heritage he so treasures, allows him to play what needs to be played and nothing more.

He is at the service of the music, the sound and the dynamic shape of the individual song. No band has been better served by its drummer than the Rolling Stones.

So, as the Rolling Stones embark on one more last hurrah Charlie will endure the travelling, the media and the endless waiting for the wonderful pleasures of those few hours on stage when he can just play the music along with his faithful companions of so many years.

Charlie was fabulous in the 1960s, fantastic in the 1970s,  fervour filled in the 1980s and 1990s and  unflashily fluent in the new milenium.

Things will be no different in 2019.

So, if you’re in the audience make sure that you really put your hands together for the drummer!

Tom Waits : (Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night

They say there is nobility in work.

Well, I can tell you none of them guys ever got up in the blue black cold to work at the breakers yard for Mr Conte.

Pop says keep your head down and your lip buttoned and in 10 years you’ll be a manager.

Ten years!

Ten years of Yes Sir/No Sir and hands raw and shredded.

Ten Years and I’ll be nearly 30 – an old man!

I tell you if it wasn’t for the music and Saturday Nights I’m not sure I’d make it through this year let alone 10.

You switch on, turn the dial and Boom!

Elvis. Little Richard, Don and Phil, Dion.

Some girls say I look just like Ricky Nelson.

I guess when I shave close and comb my hair that ain’t so far from the truth.

With my Saturday Night clothes on when I look in the mirror can’t see a trace of that guy at the breakers yard.

Out the door, keys swinging, start her up.

Tank full of gas. The Oldsmobile and me.

Looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

On our way to pick up my sweet one for tonight.

Looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

Heading downtown to the bright lights.

I bet this’ll be like no night I’ve ever seen.

Cash a plenty and a six pack.

What more could you want?

C’mon let’s barrel down the avenue – show these folks what a really sharp couple look like.

Let ‘em stare when we stop on the red.

Wave ‘em bye bye when we go on the green.

Guess they’re looking for the heart of Saturday Night too.

Well, listen to that neon buzzin’ and the crack of the pool balls.

You know, this just might be the Saturday I’m hitting my peak.

But, sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I don’t see Ricky Nelson.

I see a working stiff out looking for the heart of Saturday Night like he looked a hundred times before.

The sweet one with me tonight – will I want to have my arm around her next Saturday Night?

Will she want to climb into The Oldsmobile with me?

Maybe it’s the booze that’s got me thinking this way.

The Irish in me maybe.

Thats what my second cousin Vinnie says.

You know, sometimes, thinking of all those Saturdays past and all those Saturdays to come it’s hard not to find there’s a melancholy tear in your eye.

The barmaid seen plenty of me with plenty of different girls and she gives a smile from the corner of her eye.

Let’s have one more game of pool and one more round of drinks.

I’ll drink to the magic of the melancholy.

Soon enough, on past experience, I won’t be dancin’ so much as stumblin’.

You know thinkin’ of all this you can quiver right down to your core.

But what else you gonna do?

Still, I’m gonna gas her up next week.

Can’t lose that tingle.

I know, just know, that one of these weeks, after I make it through Monday to Friday, I’ll be barrelling down the avenue with my arm around my sweet one in my Oldsmobile and find I’m right in the heart of Saturday Night.

Right in the heart.

Tom Waits.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Kerouac.

Finding the mythic in the everyday.

Writing songs that dramatise experiences we have all had.

Looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

We walk towards the light and tingle even though we know Saturday Nights have come and gone before without us ever landing, bullseye, right in the heart.

There’s tremendous art in the way Tom chooses a loping tempo for this song.

For me, this is the tempo of dream.

In a dream you can in slow motion view the scenes simultaneously from the air for the grand perspective and from the street for the emotional close ups.

The neon buzzin’ and the crack of the pool balls.

The quiver right down in your core.

A song that will have meaning however long your life lasts and however old you were when you first heard it.

Everyone has looked or is looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

The patina of meaning will grow more burnished year by year as you revisit the song.

The one heading out , keys swinging, tingling as they head off into the lights may not be you anymore but your Son, your Grand Daughter.

Looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

Tom Waits.

A pretty good scout if you’re looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

P. S.

If this Is your first visit to The Jukebox – where ya been!

Seriously if it is your debut here do take a look around.

There’s 300 or more Posts to choose from.

I’ll be surprised if you don’t find some old favourites and make some discoveries.

Sign up for Email alerts or follow me on Twitter @thomhickey55 and never miss a Post!

Bob Marley & The Wailers : Stir it up

In June 1975 there was no doubt among the music cognoscenti as to what was the hottest ticket in town.

I was, of course, one of the Cognoscenti, having devoured every issue the New Musical Express, Melody Maker and Rolling Stone had issued for the previous 3 years.

I had also clocked up many thousands of hours spinning my vinyl and tuning in to the pathfinder Radio Disc Jockeys – John Peel, Charlie Gillett and David Rodigan.

The headlines and the airwaves trumpeted : Bob Marley and The Wailers were about to play 2 historic concerts at London’s Lyceum Theatre.

Be There or be Square!

I was there.

And, that’s definitely me you hear roaring approval on the ensuing Album, ‘Live!’ as classic performance succeeded classic performance (mind you several hundred other attendees will claim it’s their full throated acclaim which is captured).

This was one of those nights when we knew we were participants in a legendary occasion.  Since then of course for every person who was actually there a hundred more who weren’t  have claimed they were  there – right by the stage.

I was a teenager when I went to this gig yet decades on it remains in my top three concert experiences.

With this gig Bob Marley and The Wailers announced themselves as a group of tne very first rank – in the same class as The Rolling Stones.

They had the songs courtesy of Bob Marley who had a profound gift for creating words and melodies that seemed like old friends even on first hearing.

And, Bob could write every type of song.

Lyrical love songs. Angry political songs. Philosophical musings.

Anthems for a nation and the generations.

And every one lifts the spirit, warms the heart and has you dancing until you’re dizzy!

They had the musical chops.

Carlton Barrett on Drums and Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett on Bass were a peerless rhythm section fully the equal of Al Jackson and Duck Dunn from Booker T & The MGs.

Sweetening was provided by Tyrone Downie on keyboards, Al Anderson on guitar and Alvin Patterson on percussion.

Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt lent heavenly vocal support.

They had the front man.

Bob Marley was effortlessly charismatic.

Impossible to take your eyes off him as he moved about the stage as relaxed as if it was his own front room.

Bob Marley & The Wailers had all those qualities and that extra mysterious X Factor, that special something, that bonds a band to each other and the audience to the band.

Combine all these factors – and before you know it you’ve slipped gravity’s bounds and you’re headed for the stars!

Now, when the Album of the concert was released it was immediately recognised as a landmark recording and, ‘No Woman, No Cry’ in particular became a radio and Jukebox staple and a song beloved far beyond the specialist Reggae fan base.

But. But. But.

There was something missing from the Album.

To whit, my favourite Bob Marley song ever – ‘Stir It Up’ which was played on both of those magical nights.

Why it was left off I’ll never know.

So, when I want to listen to a live version of, Stir It Up’ I turn to the internet and find there are many versions to choose from but one clear winner.

A British TV appearance from 1974 featuring the Uber cool Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer as well as the Barretts.

The groove they sustain here is one of the prime examples of the assurance a great band can achieve when they’re perfectly in sync with each other and their material

Surely, this is pure Zen!

Everything in balance.

Everything in harmony.

Pure Flow.

Every time I hear this I wish it would go on forever!

Stir it up.

Stir it up.

Stir it Up.

James Bond says things are better shaken rather than stirred.

That might be true for a Martini .. but for everything else in Life I recommend stirring rather than shaking.

Like Bob says if you want to satisfy your heart’s desire come on and …

Stir it up.

Stir it up

Stir it together.

Declan O’Rourke, Eddi Reader : Galileo (Someone Like You)

Love can make you ask funny questions now and then.

Who puts the rainbow in the sky?

Image result for turner paintings of rainbows

Who lights the stars at night?

Image result for van gogh starry night original painting

 

Questions we, and all those who have gone before us, and all those who follow after us, will ask as long as we live.

Ptolemy and Herschel and Hipparchus looking up into the heavens observed, recorded and wondered.

Kepler and Tycho Brahe and Copernicus pursued the same quest.

Eratosthenes and Messier and Hubble were fellow seekers.

As was Galileo.

Image result for images galileo

Looking up, we can be sure all of them sighed and sometimes cried because though the stars are fixed in the sky the course of love, as we all know to our cost, is always erratic.

Ah, what is the stars? What is the stars?

Mansions built by Nature’s hand.

Dome and vault and nest.

Steadfast watchers of the moving waters and the snow upon the mountains and moors.

Light streaming.

Light Years. Light Years. Light Years.

Dropping silently, thick as stones, into the picket of trees.

Catch a falling star and teach me to hear the mermaids singing.

Look at the stars!

Look, look up at the skies!

O look at all the fire folk!

Circle citadels.

Diamond delves.

Airy abeles aflare.

Borrow a bonnet of the Lark and a Chamois’ silver boot and go.

The heart leaps beholding the rainbow in the sky.

A perfectly ordinary rainbow.

The morning stars sang together.

Signs in the Sun and in the moon and in the stars.

Seven stars in the right hand.

A crown of twelve stars.

Love can make you ask some funny questions now and then.

Who dreamt up someone so divine – someone like you and made them mine?

Lonely, unhappy, lips as cold as ice but you kissed me and good heavens!

No more a dark and distant star.

Now I’m here in Paradise.

Paradise.

Who put the rainbow in the sky?

Who lights the stars at night.

 

Galileo (Someone Like You) – a divine song written by Declan O’Rourke and Seamus Cotter.

Sung by Declan, on his debut Album, with innocent assurance.

The assurance of someone who sounds a true note.

Galileo will always be the signature song of Declan’s career though he has subsequently written and recorded many very fine songs.

When he recorded it in 2004 he thought that the song was an indulgence and that nobody outside him and his family would be interested.

Yet, when people heard this song there was an immediate sigh of recognition.

For, who has not looked up and wondered who put the rainbow in the sky?

Who has not wondered who lights the stars at night?

Who has not been lonely and unhappy with lips as cold as ice?

And, good heavens, who has not, even once, for once is all it takes, been kissed and found themselves in paradise?

Who invented such a joy?

Who has not wondered then who dreamt up someone so divine and made them mine?

So don’t be blind and don’t cry.

Look up high and gladly sigh.

Eddi Reader, as true and fair a voice as you can ever hope to find, lights up the heavens here accompanied by the RTE Concert Orchestra.

Look up and gladly sigh.

Look at the stars!

Look, look up at the skies!

O look at all the fire folk!

Don’t be blind and don’t you cry.

Look up high and gladly sigh,

And you might find you’re in Paradise.

Love can make you ask some funny questions now and then.

Who puts the rainbow in the sky?

Who lights the stars at night?

We will all have a blind and dying day.

Until then …

Look up high and sigh and be thankful.

 

Notes :

I highly recommend all of Declan’s recorded output :

‘Since Kyabram’, ‘Big Bad Beautiful World’ ‘Mag Pai Zai’, ‘Gold Bars in the Sun’, ‘In Full Colour’ and ‘Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine’.

Declan has an informative website declanorourke.com which features a fascinating documentary revisiting the making of his debut Album.

Paul Weller said about Declan :

‘He writes the sort of classic songs that people don’t write anymore, songs that sound like they’ve been around forever. Listen to Galileo, which is possibly the greatest song written in the last thirty years.’

Galileo has been recorded by Eddi Reader, Mary Byrne and Josh Groban among others.

There is a stunning version by Camille O’Sullivan which I will feature when I write a Post with her as the subject later this year.

Credit for starry inspiration properly due to :

William Wordsworth, John Keats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, Les Murray (RIP), Sylvia Plath and The King James Bible.

George Harrison, James Ray : Got My Mind Set on You

‘It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time ….’ (Rudy Clark/James Ray)

‘A true message always gets through – sometimes it just takes a while’ (Immortal Jukebox)

On 7 February 1964 Pan Am Flight 101 took off from London’s Heathrow Airport bound for New York City.

Thousands of young women, barely controlled by massed ranks of British Bobbies in blue, screamed and sobbed as the plane took off.

For this was no ordinary flight.

No, for Pan Am 101 was carrying a very special group of passengers whose arrival in America that day would change the course of History.

Those passengers were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – The Beatles!

When they touched down at JFK they were greeted by scenes of pandemonium as fans and the media pushed and shoved to get their first glimpse of the Fab Four.

The ‘British Invasion’ had begun and from that day on for the rest of the decade there was no question about who the most popular and successful group in the world was and who were the most famous and instantly recognisable faces on the entire planet.

But, before an invasion there is usually a reconnaissance.

You send a scout ahead.

And, for The Beatles, the scout was George Harrison.

Embed from Getty Images

*

For though The Beatles didn’t land on the soil of the Promised Land until February 1964 George had spent two weeks there in September 1963.

How come?

Well, George was the youngest of the three Harrison siblings.

Brother Peter was three years older than George but Sister Louise was 12 years older and long before The Beatles were even a madcap dream in the minds of John and Paul she had left the grim austerity of post War Liverpool to travel the world with her mining engineer husband.

And, in September 1963, she was living at 113 McCann Street, Benton, Illinois a coal town with a population of under 10, 000 souls.

After the release of ‘She Loves You’ in Britain in August 1963 Brain Epstein decided that in view of the immense workload they had already completed and the even more taxing plans he had for their future it was time The Beatles took a break.

John went to Paris while Paul and Ringo jetted off to Greece.

George, with brother Peter, went to Benton to visit Louise, arriving there on September 16th.

Image result for louise harrison images

His time in Benton would be for George, as Paris and Greece would be for his fellow Beatles, the last time they could ever walk the streets of any town or city without being instantly recognised and/or mobbed.

George would always remember his first, incognito, exposure to American culture and wonder at the freedom of being able to wander at will wherever he pleased.

On that trip he bought a Rickenbacker at the Fenton Music Store at 601 South 10th Street, Mt Vernon, IL for $400.

He would play this on the pioneering UK TV Show, Ready, Steady, Go’ on 4 October.

Image result for george harrison with rickenbacker 425

*

Along with Louise he hitchhiked to Radio Station WFRX and presented them with a mint copy of, ‘She Loves You’.

He also hooked up with a guy called Gabe McCarty a member of a local group called the Four Vests and on 28 September George took the stage with them at The Veterans Hall in Eldorado.

The patrons that night were the first Americans to hear George rip into, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘Matchbox’ and ‘Roll Over Beethoven’.

George flew back to England on October 3rd.

In his luggage, along with the precious Rickenbacker, was more treasure in the form of vinyl.

George, a true fan of music as well as a musician, had haunted the record stores in Illinois and NYC looking for gems that were hard to find at home.

No one in the stores had ever heard of The Beatles but the shelves groaned with records that George had only ever read about in magazines or heard about from American musicians he had met in Hamburg.

He bought a lot of premium Blues and R&B sides by the likes of Booker T and the MGs and Bobby Bland.

His eye was particularly caught by an LP bearing the name of James Ray on the Caprice Label.

Image result for images rudy clark songwriter

He knew the name because The Beatles had been regularly featuring Ray’s hauntingly other-worldly, ‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ since Paul had found a copy at Brian Epstein’s NEMS Record Shop.

Spinning the platter back at 113 McCann he became especially fond of one track in particular – ‘I’ve Got My Mind Set On You’ and his love and admiration for the song would survive the madness of Beatlemania and the glory days of his solo career.

George could instantly recognise that there was a keening, spiritual, quality in James’ voice that gave a profound allure to everything he sang.

Sing it James!

 

The song was written by Rudy Clark who had written, ‘If You Gotta ..’ and would go on to write, ‘Good Lovin’, ‘Its in His Kiss’, and, ‘Everybody plays The Fool’ among other Hits.

The, ‘Let’s try everything we can think of’ arrangement was by Hutch Davie who had played the piano on, ‘Green Door’ and arranged Santo & Johnny’s wonderful guitar instrumental, ‘Sleepwalk’.

What lifts the track beyond a novelty of its time is James Rays’ stunning vocal.

James can really sing.

There is a yearning, as long as I’m singing this song I can make it through, quality to James’ voice which makes me hit the repeat button repeatedly every time I play any side he ever cut (and tragically there are probably less than 30).

You get the sense that there are ghosts hovering round James whispering secrets from beyond the veil and that James can’t help but hear even though he knows those voices are calling him to follow to the lands across the Styx.

We know so little about this wonderful artist.

It seems he was born James Ray Raymond in Washington D.C in 1941 and that he served some time in the Military.

He first appears on record in 1959 as, ‘Little Jimmy Ray’ (he was all of 5ft tall on tip toe) but it is not until he hooked up with Rudy Clark and Gerry Granahan at Caprice Records that he made anything that stirred the airwaves or set the nickels flowing on The Jukeboxes.

‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ has been recorded by Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Ben E King, Lou Rawls and Bobby Gentry – superb artists all – yet not one of them has approached the spectral grace of James’ version (I plan to write a dedicated Post on the song later this year).

It seems that James had a drug problem and that when he was, ‘discovered’ by Rudy Clark he was homeless and finding such shelter as he could on apartment block rooftops.

He only recorded one LP and even the date and place of his death and where he is buried are unknown.

It seems likely that he was already dead when The Beatles landed at JFK.

In a business filled with tragic tales James’ tale is among the most tragic.

Yet, thanks to George Harrison and the other luminaries his name lives on at least for those who read sleeve notes and song writing credits.

George recorded his take on  ‘I’ve Got My Mind Set On You’ some 24 years after he first encountered it back in Benton.

His version is considerably more upbeat in tone than James’.

The song was recorded in George’s home studio within Friary Park his 120 room neo-gothic mansion.

Stellar musicians like Jim Keltner on Drums and Jim Horn on Saxophone feature on a characteristically multi layered production by Jeff Lynne who also provides creamy backing vocals.

This record is very much a 1980s record with a big sound that along with the winning video demolished all hesitation in the record buying public.

A Number One Hit!

It is not inconceivable that many seeing the song on MTV did not know this George Harrison fellow’s History!

Certainly not one in 10,000 who bought the record knew anything about James Ray.

But George did and I can’t help but think he had a thought for James as he recorded it and when he played it live.

 

 

Talking of live action here’s George giving the song the full lash in Japan backed by Eric Clapton’s ensemble.

Now, I love George’s version but it’s not the one I sometimes wake up singing.

No, it’s James Ray’s version which lingers like morning mist in my imagination.

James Ray’s voice was stilled some sad day in the mid 1960s but the eerie sound of his voice will always echo on and on.

Sing it James.

 

Notes and Call for Information!

There’s an excellent website toppermost,co.uk (Twitter @AgeingRaver) which publishes highly informative and entertaining top 10s on many artists beloved by The Jukebox.

The entry on James Ray written by the learned Dave Stephens (Twitter @DangerousDaveXX) is excellent.

The only CD I can find for James Ray is, ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody – Golden Classics’ on the Gotham Label. Only 12 tracks and poorly presented but every track demands your attention.

If anyone knows anything more about James Ray’s life and death please let me know.

Also there’s surely a great documentary to be made about George’s time in Benton and about the fellow passengers on Pan Am 101 – again anyone who has any stories let me know!