Emmylou Harris, Chet Atkins & The Chordettes : Mr Sandman

Lately, it seems that whenever I open a Newspaper or Magazine there’s a sober article warning that there is a, ‘Sleep Crisis’ which is increasingly manifested in physical and mental ill health.

People, working all hours and glued to glowing digital devices into the wee hours just aren’t getting enough shuteye!

I read such Jeremiads with much personal puzzlement.

I have never had any problem in sleeping 8 hours or more every night.

Some people have asked me how do I manage this?

Well, my infallible technique is to lie down on a reasonably flat surface and close my eyes!

Sleep follows within a minute – so long as there isn’t prolonged gunfire or searchlights trained directly at me I’m off in a trice.

Drinking alcohol or coffee doesn’t make any difference either.

When it’s time to sleep – I sleep.

Learning of how unusual this appears to be I am grateful for my good fortune.

I tip my hat to The Sandman.

 

Of course, on The Jukebox, I’ll do far more than that.

I’ll serenade him in jubilant song.

Let’s start with the charming, chiming, circle of fifths, Chordettes from 1954.

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Pat Ballard wrote the song and a scramble started to get the hit.

Vaughan Monroe was first out of the blocks closely followed by The Four Aces.

But the clear winner was the zing go the strings of my heart version by The Chordettes.

Jinny Osborn, Janet Ertel, Carol Buschman and Lynn Evans had a collective spellbinding magic that took Mr Sandman to the top of the Charts.

In late ’54 the record flew off the shelves and was an ever present on the airwaves and the jukeboxes.

The Chordettes magic beam gave everyone a peachy dream.

 

They came out of Sheboygan Wisconsin (like E E Smith and Jackie Mason).

National prominence arrived in 1949 when they were winners on the hugely popular Radio Show, hosted by Arthur Godfrey, – ‘Talent Scouts’.

The Musical Director for the show was Archie Bleyer who was struck by their winning sound.

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He also fell in love with and married Janet Ertel.

Archie was a canny cove who had been a professional musician/arranger/Bandleader since tne early 1930s.

To capitalise on his musical and business smarts he founded Cadence Records in 1952. His biggest sellers on the label were Rock ‘n Roll Immortals The Everly Brothers.

Archie became Phil Everley’s father in law when Phil married Janet Ertel’s daughter from her first marriage.

The  Cadence cash registers were also kept busy counting up the hits from Johnny Tillotson and Lenny Welch.

Mr Sandman benefit from an airy menthol cool production featuring percussion by Archie    Rhythmically slapping his knees!

It’s one of those records that instantly calls to mind the I Like Ike American 1950s.

I suspect the, ‘You Never Can Tell ‘ couple from a recent Jukebox post sashayed to this one in their two room appartment.

The great guitar stylist Chet Atkins cut a distinctive, characteristically fluid,  instrumental version in November 1954 which gave him his first solo hit on the Country Music Charts.

Here’s Chet fleet fingers playing the song live.

 

 

Now, loyal Jukeboxers will have guessed by now that I have more than a penchant for the divine Emmylou Harris.

In addition to her beauty and glorious musicality she is a Jukebox Star because she has exquisite taste across myriad genres.

Emmylou knows a good song when she hears one and she has the knack of making familiar tunes fresh through the purity of her vocals and the carefully chosen musicians she plays with.

Here she is magic beaming all our hearts away.

Roses and Clover. Roses and Clover.

Well there can’t be any doubt about who I’m choosing for Prom Queen!

Emmylou had a multi tracked vocal version solo hit with Mr Sandman but she first recorded it with her sisters in music Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton for their wonderful ‘Trio’ project.

Unfortunately the Corporate Dudes at Warner Chappel aren’t keen on any of their versions of Mr Sandman escaping their clutches so I’ll leave you to search out that ambrosial version for yourselves.

I’ll leave you with a perfectly peach instrumental version from yet another Wizard from New Orleans – Snooks Eaglin.

May you all get a good night’s nurturing sleep filled with inspiring dreams.

Turn on that Magic Beam!

 

 

 

The Meters : Mardi Gras Magic – They All Asked For You

This week it’s been school holiday time here.

So, you hope for blue skies, warm winds and sun kissed picnic afternoons.

Dream on!

From dark and glowering daytime skies fell apocalyptic rain.

Scouring winds shook the trees which at night stood spectrally shrouded in deep mist.

Though we had never heard him before a mournful dog, let’s properly call him a Hound, assaulted our ears with low moans interspersed with window rattling barks.

Nothing for it but to dream of a different clime filled with balmy magnolia scented breezes and the appetising aroma of crawfish boils.

Nothing for it but to dream of a City, The Music City, filed with rambling musicians and revelling crowds all in thrall to the rhythm.

The Rhythm.

Time to reside in the City of Dreams.

Time to take a Streetcar named Desire.

Time to sing and dance abondonly in the streets and on the corners.

Time to get in the Groove.

Time to join a people who have syncopation, swing, funk, soul and the blues in their very bones.

Time to Meet De Boys on the Battlefront.

Come on, Come on!  let’s go, courtesy of the mighty Meters, to The Mardi Gras!

 

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Eh, la-bas!

Crawfish etouffee!

Red Beans and Rice!

Creole Gumbo!

And, in case you’re wondering – They All Asked For You.

They even enquired about You.

They All Asked For You.

 

 

Whatever ails you I’m Hear to tell you that’ll heal you!

There are many classic Mardi Gras songs (see my playlist in Notes below) but the one that always does it for me is the one that was the sensation of the 1976 Mardi Gras – They All Asked For You by the Meters.

Why?

Well, because it makes me smile until my face aches.

Because it makes me laugh right out loud.

Because it makes me happy in a gloriously goofy way.

Because it makes me dance and want to dance right out the door into the street grabbing passers by as I go!

Because it makes me want to lead a chant of Crawfish Etouffee! Creole Gumbo!

Because I want to hear it on a loop and dance until I fall down with exhaustion.

The Meters are guardians of The Rhythm.

They live inside it.

On Drums and Vocals – (Joseph)  Zigaboo Modeliste!

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Drummer is to modest a term for Ziggy.

He is an artist in Rhythm.

They All Asked For You works it’s hypnotic way with you through his mastery of the irresistible second line rhythm.

And, if there’s a better name anywhere on this planet than Zigaboo Modeliste let me know.

On Bass and Vocals and production smarts – George Porter Jr.

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When George plays the Earth sighs … now that’s a grounded rhythm.

You can hear the Spanish Tinge and the Creole, Native American and African American rhythmic heritage on every note George plays.

More than that you can feel it in the soles of your feet and deep in your guts.

On Guitar and Vocals – Leo Nocentelli.

Now the story goes that it was Leo who brought, ‘They All Asked For You’ to the Band – though he may have sung them a somewhat more bawdy version than the one you hear here!

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Leo’s lazy, back bayou licks thread generous joy all through the song.

On Keyboards and Vocals – Art Neville.

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Art is of course one of the dynasty of great musicians named Neville.

It’s his rolling, rhapsodic piano that gives the tune its sweep you away to paradise flow.

On Congas, percussion and Vocals – Cyril Neville.

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Cyril has much, much Mojo.

When I’ve seen him in concert he throws out a force field of rhythm and bonhomie that grabs you – uplifting every molecule of your being.

We should also credit the Producer of this Mardi Gras Classic – none other than the peerless Alan Toussaint (whose Mother was Naomi Neville).

When a song is as popular as They All Asked For You it is bound to generate a ton of cover versions.

Given the centrality of the marching band tradition to Mardi Gras I’ve chosen a take featuring a gallery of New Orleans Jazzers.

Leading the Band is Big Bill Bissonnette – trombonist and drummer and crusader for classic New Orleans Jazz.

 

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Prominently features on Trumpet – Milton Batiste.

Milton was a light up the room as soon as he walked in ball of energy.

His pedigree included being one of the original Shuffling Hungarians backing up the quintessential New Orleans pianist Professor Longhair.

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Are you ready to get grooving in the second line?

Aw do it !

Do it!

Eh la- bas!

Crawfish Etouffee!

Creole Gumbo!

You know what – Praise Be! As I look out the window now the rain has stopped.

The mist has cleared.

The Hound has howled his last howl.

Skies are blue.

The winds are warm.

Where’s that picnic basket!

Make sure to pack the King Cake and the Absinthe Frappe.

It’s Mardi Gras time!

Notes :

Immortal Jukebox Mardi Gras Playlist :

Professor Longhair – Go To The Mardi Gras & Big Chief

Earl King – Street Parade

Al Johnson – Carnival Time

Sugar Boy Crawford – Jock -A – Mo

The Hawkettes – Mardi Gras Mambo

Bill Sinigal – Second Line

Smokey Johnson – It Ain’t My Fault

The Wild Tchoupitoulas – Meet De Boys on the Battlefront.

The Wild Magnolias – Handa Wanda & New Suit.

i guarantee you’ll have a hell of a Party!

The Meters ‘Funkify Your Life’ Anthology CD will do exactly what it says!

The Small Faces : All or Nothing

‘We were on tour, staying in the Station Hotel Leeds, when Steve suddenly ran down the corridor screaming – I’ve got it! I’ve just written our next hit!’ (Kenney Jones)

‘I think, ‘All or Nothing’ takes a lot of beating. If there’s a song that typifies that era, then that might be it.’ (Steve Marriott)

When it comes to Love and Romance we’ve all got History.

Everyone has History.

Bad Dreams, Baggage.

Betrayals, Battle Scars.

Heartache. Heartbreak.

We all know how it feels to be heart sore.

Yet, we all know how it feels to have Hope.

To believe in blessings.

To believe that we are not trapped by our pasts.

To believe in second, third and fourth chances.

History is made and remade every brand new day.

Now, given all that History you can be properly cautious and careful.

You can be measured and deliberate.

You can rehearse every scenario.

But, but, Brothers and Sisters, Spring doesn’t last forever.

You can look as long as you like but in the end you will have to leap.

Bystanders watch all the blessings pass them by.

Leap. Leap.

Even though soft landings are never guaranteed.

In the end it’s All or Nothing.

And, we know that nothing comes of nothing.

Ninety-Nine and a half just won’t do.

All or Nothing.

All or Nothing.

 

 

Nice, very, very Nice!

Admit it – resistance is useless.

In the long ago Vintage Vinyl days when I used to DJ I always insisted, whatever the audience, that we play, ‘All or Nothing’ at stun volume.

And, from the instant Kenney Jones’ drums crash in I would leap the Decks and go absolutely crazy!

Which is to say that The Small Faces’ All or Nothing is one of the definitive British Pop Singles.

Marriott’s vocal was characteristically direct, dramatic and dynamic – there’s no way you can get out of the way of Steve Marriott when he’s coming at you!

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Kenney Jones’ drumming drives us all headspinningly dizzy.

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Ronnie Lane’s warm bass and urgent backing vocals bonds everything together.

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Ian McLagen’s surging runs on the Hammond explode in the head and heart.

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Together they conjure a sound that shouts, exults, in the joy of being alive.

It was an unstoppable Number One in September 1966 displacing The Beatles from their customary sojourn at the summit of the charts.

The Small Faces : Steve Marriott on Vocals and Guitar, Ronnie Lane on Bass, Kenney Jones on Drums and Ian McLagan on Wurlitzer Piano and Hammond Organ were rogues and rounders, living it large London larrikins and highly Artful Dodgers!  (Steve Marriott had actually acted as that character in the stage show Oliver!)

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Young men living in the epicentre of Swinging 60s London they were having the time of their lives radiating big hearted joy in music making.

Listening to them, watching them, it was impossible, then or now, to do anything other than fall in love with them.

Steve, Ronnie and Kenney were East End Boys with Ian, the ringer, hailing from West London.

One fateful day in 1964 Ronnie Lane decided that he would be better off playing the Bass rather than the expensive Gretsch his Dad had shelled out for.

His friend, Kenney Jones, said why not go to the J60 Music Shop in Manor Park High Street where he had found his Drum Kit.

The ultra cheeky Sales Assistant, who immediately assured Ronnie that he would get him the best Bass in the store, was none other than Steve Marriott!

Just like in a Movie, Steve sold Ronnie a Harmony Bass and took over the Gretsch for himself!

To test out the sound Kenney sat behind  Drum Kit and set off the first Small Faces groove then and there!

So was born a true Band of Brothers.

Wherever they played they built a following.

Their own immense enjoyment in playing, their energy, their delight in Mod fashion, their similarity in looks combined to forge a winning charisma.

Their residency at London’s Cavern Club won them a manager, Don Arden, who secured them a Record Contract with Decca and a salary of £20a week each.

They also got an expense account to keep their Mod Look always at the cutting edge.

What they did not get, ever, were royalties for the string of hits they created.

It is estimated that they collectively lost out on more than £10Million!

That’s Show Biz in the Swinging Sixties for you.

At the time, especially when they we’re living together from Christmas 1965 to Christmas 1966 at 22 Westmorland Terrace in Pimlico, they were too busy partying, recording and touring to audit their accounts.

They were blazingly living in the moment.

In their sound you can hear the kaleidoscopic optimism of the Sixties.

You can hear the development from pure high energy pop to thoughtful explorations of their expanding minds.

You can almost inhale the pot smoke and pop the pills as the 45s revolve.

You can follow the development of dandified male fashion.

You can be swept along by their enthusiasm and largeness of spirit.

Now the high Summer of the Small Faces’ Sixties so wonderfully represented by, ‘All or Nothing’ could not last forever.

But, before Steve Marriott stormed off stage on New Years day 1968 The Small Faces had laid down an indelible legacy.

Records that will always thrill and charm.

Records that make you smile broadly and get up and dance whatever mood you were in before they came on.

The riches accumulated by The Small Faces were never reflected in their bank accounts.

Rather, they were embedded in their memories of golden youth and in the love and affection of their loyal following.

They left us songs in which our hearts lived.

I’ll leave you with a live appearance on BBC Radio.

 

In memory of:

Steve Marriott 1947 – 1991 (entirely appropriately All or Nothing was played at Steve’s funeral service)

Ronnie Lane 1946 – 1997

Ian McLagan 1945 – 2014

And for Kenney Jones wishing him good health and long life.

Recommended Recordings:

I wrote this Post listening to the 5CD ‘Decca Years 1965 – 1967’ Box Set which never sits on my shelves for very long as it is guaranteed to brighten any day.

The Albums, ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ and ‘Autumn Stone’ are classic records which will transport to those sunny 60s uplands.

 

Toots & The Maytals : Pressure Drop

‘When I got out of jail I had a sense of injustice. [Pressure Drop] is a song about revenge : if you do bad things to innocent people, bad things will happen to you.’ (Toots HIbbert)

( Jackie Jackson, Bass player on Pressure Drop) : ‘In 1975 we supported The Who playing to 90,000 people in California. The crowd just stood there staring – like they were going to have us for their supper. We said – what the hell are we going to do? Someone suggested opening with Pressure Drop.

The Place erupted!’ 

You reap what you sow.

You really do.

The temptation is to deceive yourself that whatever you want to do, no matter the disastrous effect it has on other lives, is just fine.

Just fine.

But, Life, God, The Universe, will not be mocked.

Oh, you might ‘get away’ from retribution for years and years and years believing you have been granted special  immunity.

But, but, but … me and Toots & The Maytals are here to tell you, directly and with vigour that sooner or later, sooner or later, the wind will change, tne water will rise, the flames will appear and you will be consumed.

Toots doesn’t seek revenge like a warrior rejoicing in his own strength and the defeat of those who have done him harm.

Rather, with certain faith and with joy in his heart he celebrates the truth that balance will always be restored.

It’s just a matter of Time.

The glass will record the approaching storm

The Pressure will Drop.

Look out Brother.

Look out!

The Pressure is most assuredly gonna Drop on you!

 

What a glorious riot!

Toots as a singer and songwriter seems to me to be a natural mystic.

Underpinning all his performances and recordings is a gospel fervour, a preacher’s call seeking an open hearted Amen from his audience.

And, tell me who, who, in tne whole wide world, swept away by the majestic vocals and rhythmic ecstasy of Pressure Drop, will fail to shake the rafters with Amen after Amen after Amen!

Toots was a veteran of the ska and rocksteady scenes and a Founding Father of Reggae when he came to record Pressure Drop for producer Leslie Kong in 1969.

Incredibly, Pressure Drop was cut live in tne studio in one take.

Toots an inspirational figure and born leader dives straight in introducing the melody with the most brilliant and affecting humming ever committed to tape.

The Maytals, Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias, empathetically echo and urge Toots forward throughout every beat of the record.

Together they became an unmatched rhapsodic vocal trio bursting with love of life and music.

Keeping everything bubbling away at exactly the right temperature was the exquisite guitar of Huck Brown, the soul deep bass and drums of Jackie Jackson and Winston Grennan and the majestic Organ of Winston Wright.

Pressure Drop is one of those rare songs that has organic unity – it just flows.

Now, if you ever get the chance to see Toots & The Maytals live – don’t hesitate just go!

Take the plane, take the train, drive.

But, even if you have to walk all the way – get there.

Because Toots live is an experience of unbounded Joy.

Oh, and make sure to wear the right shoes.

Because from the minute he hits the stage you’re gonna be up out of your seat – lurching, laughing and dancing until you think you can’t dance no more.

Then Toots will start humming and kick off Pressure Drop and you’ll find yourself dancing like you’ve never danced before.

 

 

Notes :

Chris Blackwell the founder of Island Records has called Toots HIbbert, ‘One of the purest human beings I’ve met in my life, pure almost to a fault.’

Toots served an 18 month prison sentence in 1966/67.

In 2013 Toots received a serious head injury from a bottle thrown at him from the crowd.

Knowing the reality of life behind bars he had the purity of heart to write to a Judge requesting that the perpetrator not be sent to Prison as this would only increase Toots own pain and suffering.

Many listeners were introduced to Toots through the inclusion of Pressure Drop on the magnificent soundtrack record of the 1972 film, ‘The Harder They Come’ which also includes superb tracks from Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Dekker. No collection is complete without The Harder They Come.

While I was writing this post I was listening to ‘54-56 Was My Number’ a career spanning Toots & The Maytals anthology from the Sanctuary Label.

Toots & The Maytals have made some of the most uplifting and heartening Records ever issued.

Check out  ‘Funky Kingston’ and, ‘Toots & The Maytals in Memphis’ – Records that will immeasurably boost your well being and become treasured lifetime companions.

Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry, Emmylou Harris : You Never Can Tell

When you are young you think you know.

You know how the world works.

You know just how things are going to turn out.

But you find out the world is a much stranger place than you thought.

People – your parents, your friends, your one and only love, strangely decide to behave in ways you never expected.

The 16 year old school no-hoper strangely turns out to a world-beater by 25.

Volcanos erupt. Impregnable Walls are torn down.

True Love sometimes turns out to be exactly that.

You learn not to make such definite snap judgments.

When things happen you didn’t see coming you’re not outraged.

Instead you smile a wry smile and say ’C’est La Vie – it goes to show you never can tell’.

 

And, if you’re a great songwriter reflecting wryly on life and love you decide to write a song filled with acute observation, humour and wisdom.

At least, that’s what you do if you’re Chuck Berry – even if you’re in Prison when the inspiration strikes.

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Chuck was, of course, a writer of both inspiration and deliberation.

There’s immense craft in the song.

The story is told in four short verses.

‘C’est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell’ is an arresting and immediately memorable lyric hook neatly and beautifully rhythmically encapsulating the moral of the song.

The AAAA Rhyme scheme is used with finesse and wit building up rhyme by rhyme a complete picture of the situation.

Chuck delights in marrying his New Orleans Creole Rhythm with a French name for teenage spouse, Pierre, and playfully using both madamoiselle and Madame, in the correct order, to signify that the truly in love couple have indeed rung the chapel bell.

So, married life begins with a well stocked Collerator just crammed with those dinners they wolfed while watching their favourite shows. I wouldn’t be surprised if they mixed that ginger ale with something a little more potent!

I was delighted to discover that ‘Coolerator’ was a genuine brand name (see image below) and that the refrigerators were manufactured in Duluth – making it certain that they would have been known to Bob Dylan and very likely stocked in the family electricals store.

 

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle
And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale
The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale
But when Pierre found work, the little money comin’ worked out well
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records, all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music fell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They bought a souped-up jitney, ’twas a cherry red ’53
They drove it down to Orleans to celebrate the anniversary
It was there that Pierre was married to the lovely mademoiselle
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

 

Chuck always delighted in his references to US Car Culture and I have to admit that from the first moment I heard You Never Can Tell I sorely longed for a ‘Cherry Red ‘53’!

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I haven’t got mine (yet).

But, I surely did get me a fine Hi Fi Phono and boy, as all my neighbours will tell you, did I let it blast!

And, taking pride of place among my 700 or so 45s there will always be a high stack of Chuck Berry singles.

Because he was the greatest songwriter of the primal Rock ‘n’ Roll era and because nothing lifts the spirits like three minutes of prime Chuck Berry!

Consider that You Never Can Tell was preceded by, ‘No Particular Place To Go’ and succeeeded by, ‘Promised Land’ – a run of classics that would have worthily constituted a lifetime’s achievement for another songwriter/performer.

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I should draw your attention to the glorious piano playing of Johnnie Johnson for once foregrounded in this song.

Released from dramatic guitar playing duties Chuck concentrates his genius on his sly and smooth vocal.

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Of course, it was a given that once a new Chuck Berry song hit the airwaves and Jukeboxes that a flood of cover versions would appear.

So many to choose from for our Immortal Jukebox!

Let’s kick off with Emmylou Harris and her aptly named Hot Band more than kicking up their heels!

 

 

Emmylou and Co hit that shuffle rhythm from the get go don’t they.

Glenn D Hardin on piano and Hank Devito add colour with England’s own Albert Lee providing the stellar guitar.

What an apprenticeship in the big time this was for the young Rodney Crowell!

Naturellement he was in love with Emmylou  – putting him in company with all red blooded music fans of the time!

Now we let the arm come down on something really special.

You want a demonstration and distillation of the spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll?

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen and Jukebox afficianados the whole world over I give you the one and only Ronnie Lane with Slim Chance!

 

 

Now that’s a New Orleans second line party!

That’s ginger ale laced with the very finest bourbon!

That makes the big toe in your boot shoot straight up to the sky!

Every time Ronnie Lane strapped on his bass and stepped to the microphone he put his whole heart and soul into his performances exuding sheer glee in the music he was making.

The same holds true for Bruce Springsteen.

I love this version of You Never Can Tell from Leipzig in 2013.

Bruce takes the crowd request and coaches the initially sceptical Band until they produce a wonderfully ragged celebration of Chuck Berry’s anthem.

Chuck Berry will always be the heartbeat of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Thank God apostles like Bruce Springsteen, Ronnie Lane and Emmylou Harris ensured that the message still resounds.

 

 

And, even today, somewhere in Chicago or Cairo someone is saying – you know we could really do a killer version of that Chuck Berry ‘C’est La Vie’ song.

It goes to show you never can tell where a great song will end up except that it will surely keep traveling on.

Steve Earle, Patty Loveless, The Proclaimers & Eddi Reader – My Old Friend The Blues

Lovers leave.

Friends will let you down.

You learn that as you fall in and out love and form friendships that flare bright before they fade away.

So, you’re left all alone with The Blues.

And, you can hug those blues close to get you through.

The Blues becomes your old and trusted friend.

But, remember, remember, sometimes you are the lover who walks away.

Remember, remember, sometimes you are the friend who’s doing the letting down.

So, don’t make The Blues your best and only friend.

We all get The Blues.

We all need The Blues to get through the lost loves and the failed friendships.

Loss and failure hurt.

But, they go with the territory.

Love and Friendship will be the treasures of your Life.

The Blues will see you through until you’re ready to face the joys and pains of Love and Friendship again.

Dont lean too long on your old friend The Blues.

Love again. Be a Friend again.

Meantime let’s have a hugely enjoyable wallow with our old friend The Blues courtesy of the young Steve Earle (this is a quintessential young man’s song).

Paradoxically it’s young hearts that feel the weariest.

Ah … a shiver of recognition and illicit pleasure in pain for all of us there!

Steve Earle, a natural songwriter, came out of San Antonio Texas fit to burst with energy and a desire to tell stories about the way the world was and the way it damn well should be.

‘Guitar Town’ from 1986 was his breakthrough record announcing him as a literate, rocking, rough, rowdy, romantic and righteous artist who was here to stay.

You could hear the influences of Folk Icon Woody Guthrie and Texas troubadours Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt

Add in a dash of on’ry ol Waylon Jennings and workshirt era Bob Dylan and you’ve got a very potent and occasionaly explosive mixture which near guaranteed a vesuvial flow of songs.

Steve Earle’s best songs have drama and impact and emotional reach.

Across the Atlantic in Scotland, ‘My Old Friend The Blues’ reached the tender heart of Eddi Reader who was surely born to sing room stilling ballads.

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Listen to her here bring the same focus and sensitivity she gives to the songs of Robert Burns to Steve Earl’s cancion Triste.

Eddi has a voice that can croon or keen.

A voice laden with ancient knowing.

A quiet voice that sounds loud in your heart.

A voice of balm for weary hearts wherever they may beat.

Staying in Scotland we now turn to twins Charlie and Craig Reid, The Proclaimers.

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Their Records are distinguished by the fierce commitment they bring to every song they sing.

Which, of course, brings even more allure to their tender moments.

The Proclaimers bring a stark echoing intensity to My Old Friend The Blues.

Patty Loveless is a blue Kentucky Girl – a State where lovelorn ballads are not exactly in short supply!

Patty made her mark at the same time as Steve Earle and like him she had done her fair share of hard traveling before she had the spotlight directed at her centre stage.

Playing small bars and clubs in nameless towns she learned a lot about lonely nights and weary hearts.

She also learned that if you have a voice shot through with plaintive grace you could offer a ray of hope to those battered hearts all around – including her own.

I’m showcasing a live version suffused with bluegrass duende.

 

Speaking of Duende, as we collect the glasses and turn out the lights let’s have one more take from Steve himself before we shut the doors.

Just when every ray of hope was gone ….

On those nights when sleep seems loath to appear and knot up ravelled care you can always turn to an old friend – The Blues.

Then, when dawn breaks, as it always miraculously does, take that weary heart of yours and go in search of love and friendship once again.

John Spillane : The Dance of The Cherry Trees (Homage to Spring)

To everything there is a Season.

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring.

A time to be born.

A time of juice and Joy.

A strain of Earth’s sweet being in the beginning.

A time to laugh and dance.

A time to embrace and love.

A time to rejoice and do good.

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To everything there is a Season.

Spring is a conflagration of green fires – a blaze of growing.

The bull-frogs are sounding!

The Swifts are back!

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All things flash and flare!

Scimitar upsweep.

Fireflies ascending.

Time is the fire in which we burn.

Time to throw open the doors and windows.

Go wherever your boot heels are ready to wander.

The Earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.

Hearts run over.

Run over with dateless expectancy, tongueless promise, indefinable desire.

Something gathers.

Gathers in the throat.

In the chest.

Something blinds the eyes.

The air is so clear and transparent you feel you might actually see the whole universe from end to end.

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There is a spirit of Youth in everything.

Everything.

May Violets.

Rough winds shaking the darling buds.

Buttercups unfold – glittering stars.

Something is being said.

Being said.

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

TIme to sing on wanton wing.

Believe in perpetual Spring.

Have faith there is a leaf to cure every hurt.

One good thing about this world – there are always sure to be more Springs.

More Springs.

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Cherry Blossom in the air.

Cherry Blossom on the street.

Cherry Blossom in your hair.

And a Blossom at your feet.

Let me tell you about the Cherry Trees.

They put on the most outrageous clothes.

They sing and dance around.

They seem to be saying :

You know we’ve travelled all around the Sun.

You know it’s taken us one whole year.

Well done everyone, Well Done.

Well Done!

Well Done!

 

 

This Post for Lilian Smith.

Lilian hosts the 6am to 8am Irish RTE Radio Show, ‘Weekend on One’ on Saturdays and Sundays.

Whether you listen in real time or later on line you will be rewarded by music chosen with intelligence and insight which will offer surprises, introductions and cherished memories.

Notes :

John Spillane who wrote, ‘Dance of The Cherry Trees’ is a songwriter who has mastered the very difficult art of saying truthful, complex things, with simplicity.

His songs both sensitive and steel strong arrest and hold the imagination.

John sings his songs with open hearted candour and fearlessness.

There is beauty, awe, humour and wonder in John’s songs.

He is Irish, a Cork native, who has the song of the River Lee in his soul.

Do yourself a favour and seek out his work.

Recommended Records :

The obvious starting point to explore John’s wonderful song catalogue is the compilation, ‘So Far So Good, Like’.

As for individual albums my favourites are:

‘All the Ways you Wander’ – a luminous acoustic collection.

‘Life In An Irish Town’ – Illuminating insights into life beyond the urban bubble.

‘My Dark Rosalien and the Island Of Dreams’ – heartfelt meditations on Ireland.

The more adventurous will also relish John’s Irish language records including the wonderful, ‘Irish Songs We Learned At School’

Before launching his solo career John was in a very fine group, ‘Nomos’. Their second CD, ‘Set You Free’ Features several excellent Spillane songs as well as superb instrumental playing.

You can learn more about John’s history and catalogue at

http://www.johnspillane.com

Thanks to :

Rainer Maria Rilke, Wendy Cope, L M Montgomery, Elizabeth Bishop, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ecclesiastes, D H Lawrence, Delmore Schwartz, Anne Stevenson, Thomas Wolfe, Anton Chekhov, Billy Collins, Philip Larkin, Amy Gerstler, Robert Burns, John Clare and Wild Bill Shakespeare for the open hearts, the poetry and the inspiration.