Crossroad 22: (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man

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(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man

Muddy Waters

The Hoochie Coochie – a belly dance or a lap dance suggestively performed by women, and popular in Chicago in the late 19th Century. Remember Cab Calloway’s Minnie the Moocher … she is a either a “red-hot” or a “low-down” hoochie-coocher – or both.

A man managing hoochie cooche dancers, or putting on a hoochie coochie show, or watching one, might be labelled a Hoochie Coochie Man … and so the title for this Willie Dixon composed song.

But in 1988, Dixon told Paul Zollo (Songwriters On Songwriting) that a hoochie coochie man comes from mystical/religious traditions – like the voodoo man. The song definitely carries that sense of voodoo:

I got a black cat bone
I got a mojo too
I got the John the Conqueror root

No wonder Zollo interviewed Willie Dixon for his book – Dixon was prolific. He is responsible for one of the best – and most poetic – descriptions of blues music:

The blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits

His songs have been performed & recorded by many, many have become blues standards … and been very influential. Perhaps too influential – in 1987 Led Zeppelin settled out of court with Dixon. Dixon’s claim was for copyright infringement  for the songs Bring It On Home & Whole Lotta Love.

Dixon’s biography is well worth a read … one notable episode of trouble for him was his stance on being drafted into the US Army. He was a conscientious objector claiming that exploitation of blacks should mean they are exempted from drafted.

Back to (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man

willie dixon & muddy waters

The original 1954 recording had a stellar line-up: Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, Otis Spann, & Fred Below.

I first heard the song in about 1970, on the Muddy Waters album – Live at Newport 1960.

The song was first added to my collection when I bought the Allman Brothers Band second album, Idlewild South – it remains one of my favourite versions of the song and was the westerly option at Crossroad #5 – Voodoo Chile.

So what’s the link between (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man and Don’t Take Everybody To Be Your Friend?

Muddy Waters and Sister Rosetta Tharpe were both riding along in 1964 in The Blues & Gospel Caravan tour of England.

… and maybe the Hoochie Coochie Man is just why Sister Rosetta is advocating caution and care

It is very unfortunate that this first video ends abruptly but it is the only clip I could find of Muddy at Newport. The second has the complete song, this clip starts with about 2m 30s of Muddy Waters chatting about his roots.

 

Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* Willie Dixon’s songs – a wikipedia page that lists Dixon’s main songs and who they have been recorded by.

* Official Willie Dixon website.

* Hoochie Coochie Man playlist on YouTube7 recordings of the song by Willie Dixon; Buddy Guy; The Allman Brothers; Steppenwolf; Jimi Hendrix; Paul Rodgers; Buddy Guy & Eric Clapton.

* A (very) short Muddy Waters biography (3m 49s) – with comments from Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Charlie Musselwhite and others.

* The Chess Record Story: Part 1 (14m 42s); Part 2 (14m 56s); Part 3 (14m 53s); Part 4 (13m 11s)

* A Superstar Blues Jam 1966 – watch this. Nothing to do with Hoochie Coochie Man but it does feature Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Otis Spann and a few other greats.

Destination next?

North:  Built For Comfort by Howlin’ Wolf
East:     You Shook Me by Jeff Beck
South:   Hoodoo Man Blues by Junior Wells
West:    Don’t Take Everybody To Be Your Friend 

Crossroad 22

Crossroad 21: Don’t Take Everybody To Be Your Friend

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Don’t Take Everybody To Be Your Friend

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Yeah, it seems to be an undeniable truth – take everybody to be your friend and you guarantee some hurt, cos’ some people are just plain bad.

As the lyric says:

Some will cause you to weep
Some will cause you to moan
Some will gain your confidence
And cause you to lose your home.

But what’s an evangelist doing preaching suspicion and caution about making friends? Shouldn’t those with faith, of all people, have faith in their fellow humans … at least until the small percentage prove faith misplaced. Which is what Sister Rosetta found …

While sitting at home
Talking to the Lord,
When some old hypocrite
Cast your name abroad.

It sounds like a bit of back-stabbing disrespect prompted the advice about not accepting everyone as a friend and the realisations that a true friend is hard to find.

Maybe taking everybody to be your friend will mean you get smacked down, betrayed, injured or hurt. And maybe it’s just the price you have to pay for being open to friendship.

And when you do find a friend who maybe shouldn’t be a friend, either forgive & forget, or write a song like Dylan’s Positively 4th Street a cracking response to betrayal. (Well maybe most of us should just lay the song on the turntable, turn up the volume and sing along loudly!)

What connects Don’t Take Everybody To Be Your FriendIt Ain’t Necessarily So.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Cab Calloway performed and recorded together.

The songs are both telling us to beware or be aware … or both.

 

Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* Johnny Cash sings the song in his inimitable style.

* Didn’t It RainSister Rosetta Tharpe – a great clip recorded in 1964 during an tour of England that was entitled The Blues & Gospel Caravan – the Caravan included Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Sonny Terry & Brownie McPhee, Reverend Gary Davis & a swag of others. This performance is at a disused railway station near Manchester. The audience on one platform, the performers on another, railway tracks between them.

* Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Godmother of Rock & Roll – PBS – American Masters episode about Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The link takes you to the page of this episode that has the filmmaker – Mick Csaky – talking about the film for 11m 52s. On the right hand side of this page you will see a list of other resources you can use to find more information about her. Unfortunately, the film can’t be viewed in this region.

* Shout, Sister, Shout! – this website is an offshoot of the 2007 book Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story Of Rock-And-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe. This link takes you to an interview with author, Gayle Wald.

Destination next?

North:  Positively 4th Street by Bob Dylan.
East:     (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters.
South:   Death Don’t Have No Mercy by Reverend Gary Davis 
West:    It Ain’t Necessarily So

Crossroad 21

Crossroad 20: It Ain’t Necessarily So

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It Ain’t Necessarily So

Cab Calloway

It was Normie Rowe who first sang this song to me. Well, maybe not to me specifically … he was on the TV singing it. Very small screen, black and white picture, thin sound – but it captured my attention. Maybe it was the girls screaming and through streamers his way. Mind you a few months later, when he did Shakin’ All Over, there seemed to be more girls, more streamers, and louder screams.

Normie Rowe around 1965

Anyway, I don’t think it was just the popularity of the song (Top Ten Hit) that made me pay attention back in 1965. It was a combination of things. This song presented an alternative world view to the one we faced in weekly school scripture lessons. A view suited to my contrary nature.

I came across this version in Cab Calloway’s 1959 album Hi-De-Hi-De-Ho released by RCA.

I had been hunting for a Cab Calloway album that was still reasonably early but did not have the thin sound of the typical 1920’s and 1930’s jazz orchestras – and this was just what I was looking for. Apart from Cab classics like Minnie the Moocher, The Hi-De-Ho Man, The Jumpin’ Jive and Kickin’ The Gong Around, it has Cab’s versions of some great songs like It Ain’t Necessarily So, Summertime, St James Infirmary, Stormy Weather, and (I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead) You Rascal You.

Cab Calloway

Cab Calloway

(I must say my ears pricked when I recently heard You Rascal You used for a TV Commercial – I think it was for a car.)

Calloway always claimed that he was the inspiration for the Porgy ‘n’ Bess character Sportin’ Life – it makes sense that his performance of this song would be among the best.

But … this version is missing two verses!!!

I had not paid any attention to that …  that until now. The missing verses are about Moses being found in a stream; and David slaying Goliath.

I couldn’t believe it when I listened to the song, so I played it again! And then I took out the CD and played it again. I’m still shaking my head.

Cab Calloway of course had a massive resurgence in the 1980’s due to The Blues Brothers film – he was 73 at the time.

How are It Ain’t Necessarily So and Summertime/Motherless Child connected?

They both form part of the Gershwin/Heyward opera Porgy and Bess … at least that’s the connection with the Summertime part of Mahalia Jackson’s medley.

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Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* The Hi-De-Ho Man  – a great article from Roger Ebert – Pulitzer Prize winning film critic.

* Cab Calloway & Betty Boopin the early 1930’s three Betty Boop animated cartoons featured Cab Calloway. Max FleischerBetty Boop’s creator – had pioneered a technique he patented as Rotoscope. The technique basically enabled animation to be adapted from action film. In these cartoons you’ll see animated characters moving in Cab Calloway style. Each of the cartoons is around 7-8 minutes and they feature Minnie the Moocher; St James Infirmary; and The Old Man of the Mountain.

* It Ain’t Necessarily So YouTube Playlist – 12 videos including: Normie Rowe; Maxine Sullivan; Bronski Beat; Cab Calloway (live);  two pianos in concert; Aretha Franklin; Miles Davis; Sammy Davis Jr (from the movie); Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald; Paul Robeson; Peggy Lee and Frank Zappa (It Ain’t Necessarily The Saint James Infirmary)

Destination next?

North:  Summertime/Motherless Child both left behind.
East:     Don’t Take Everybody To Be Your Friend by Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
South:   Big Rock Candy Mountain by Harry McClintock 
West:    Ain’t Got No – I Got Life by Nina Simone

Crossroad 20

Crossroad 19: Summertime/Motherless Child

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Summertime/Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child

Mahalia Jackson

I came across this album – Bless This House – rummaging through a pile of records at a garage sale.

I knew Mahalia Jackson had a great voice but Gospel wasn’t a favoured genre of mine – normally, I would have flicked past it.

The album cover got me – a poignant photograph printed on solid board, aged and worn but still sturdy, reinforced at the edges.

A compelling album cover

A compelling album cover

Inspecting the vinyl, it looked more scratch than track – it made no difference  – this (possibly unplayable) old record and its captivating antique cover were always going to be carried away under my arm.

It was virtually unplayable … well, it was playable but it was like listening to the crackle of static electricity.

Mahalia Jackson and the Falls-Jones Enesemble played through that static – with grace, power and beauty.

And they did that regularly for ten years or so. For ten years or so, every visit to a record shop, garage sale, market or jumble sale, I was alert, my eyes peeled for another copy in better condition. Eventually, I found it – the cover design had changed, the vinyl almost pristine – at last the scratchy veil was lifted on the amazing piano of Mildred Falls and the searing voice of Mahalia.

Summertime/Motherless Child & Piece of My Heart – What’s the link?

Summertime has been recorded over 25,000 times, so I guess the fact that Mahalia Jackson and Janis Joplin are in that long list makes for a pretty weak link … but it is a link. Perhaps made slightly closer by the fact Summertime is the track before Piece of My Heart on Cheap Thrills.

The fact that Mahalia sang Summertime at all was pretty amazing considering that she rarely sang anything secular.

I spent hours sourcing images to accompany the version of the song (from Bless This House) on a video I was going to upload to YouTube, so you could have a listen. The copyright owners have it blocked. So, you’ll have to make do with this performance. It’s still good – but not a patch on  the Bless This House version.

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Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* Just Mahalia, Baby! – an article celebrating Mahalia’s 100th birthday. It contains biographical detail, a number of videos and an interesting account of Mahalia’s appearance on the NBC’s Dinah Shore Chevy Show in 1958.

* Mahalia & Dinah Shore on the Dinah Shore Chevy Show singing Down By The Riverside.

* Della Reese talking about here experience with Mahalia Jackson. (4m 28s)

* The Summertime Connection – a website dedicated to recordings of Summertime. Here is a quote from its home page (unfortunately all the site has is a list of those recordings, you can’t listen to amy of them):

At May 1st 2011 at 00:01 GMT we know of at least 41,915 public performance [of Summertime], of which 33,345 have been recorded. Of these we have 25,998 full recordings in our collection.

* Summertime on Shmoop – Shmoop is an education website and it contains some great stuff.

Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child performed by Bobby Breen in the 1939 movie Way Down South.

* Playlist of  9 (YouTube) – Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child includes versions by Paul Robeson, Odetta, Van Morrison, Marilyn Horne, Charlie Haden & Hank Jones, Marion Anderson. 

* Playlist (YouTube) of 16 – Summertime includes Billie Holiday, Miles Davis Ray Charles & Cleo Laine, Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Fistgerald & Louis Armstrong, Keith Jarrett, Same Cooke, Leontyne Price, The Zombies, Angelique Kidjo.

And the next road takes us to?

North:  Piece of My Heart has already been taken.
East:     Ma Curly Headed Baby by Paul Robeson.
South:   It Ain’t Necessarily So  by Cab Calloway 
West:    God Bless The Child by Billie Holiday

Crossroad 19

Crossroad 18: Piece Of My Heart

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Piece Of My Heart

Big Brother & The Holding Company

Big Brother & The Holding Company

BBHC l to r – Sam Andrew; Peter Albin; Janis Joplin; Dave Getz; James Gurley

A sound that  creates a feeling of anticipation –  the amplified sound of hi-fi needle gently placed onto rotating vinyl. A few crackling seconds of silence and then …

If the vinyl happens to be Cheap Thrills, anticipation is intensified by the electric murmuring silence echoing in a crowded concert hall, headline act on stage … Bill Graham announces:

Four gentlemen and one great great broad … Big Brother … and the Holding Company.

Next … it rips.

It screams and grates and screeches … grabs you, a tantalising promise from a voice that makes a promise sound like a threat:

Yes. We’re gonna knock ya, rock ya
Gonna sing to ya now.

And that’s exactly what they do.

Almost 40 minutes later, a powerhouse version of Big Mama Thornton’s Ball and Chain closes with a jolt, the crowd cheers, announcer wishes everyone goodnight, you’re exhausted … and you just want to go through it all again.

Some 45 years later, the affect is exactly the same.

Right at the heart of the album is a searing performance of passion and fury – Piece Of My Heart. 

The Songwriters – Ragovoy & Berns.

It was written by Jerry Ragovoy & Bert Berns who also together penned Cry Baby, a later hit for Joplin.  Individually both Ragavoy and Bert had significant impact on the music industry.

Ragovoy penned a couple of other songs covered by Janis JoplinTry (Just A Little Bit Harder), Get It While You Can, My Baby – he also co-wrote Time Is On My Side which became the first “Top 10” hit for The Rolling Stones in the US.

Berns died in 1967, aged just 38. Piece Of My Heart was one of his last compositions. Despite his short time with us, his writing credits are impressive and include Twist and Shout (with Phil Medley), Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, and Here Comes The Night … and so are his producing efforts with, amongst others Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison) and Under The Boardwalk (The Drifters).

What connects Piece Of My Heart and New Speedway Boogie?

In the days before Big Brother & The Holding Company or The Grateful Dead, Peter Albin – Big Brother’s bassist – played with Grateful Dead founders Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter, and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan.

Accepting that New Speedway Boogie is about Altamont, there is a connection through the San Francisco chapter of the Hell’s Angels who stamped Cheap Thrills with their insignia.

Cheap Thrills

Cheap_Thrills Angels

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Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* Piece of My Heart – A YouTube playlist – 9 videos. The one above plus the following 8:

Janis Joplin & The Kozmic Blues Band Frankfurt 1969.
Dusty Springfield who recorded the song in 1968.
Vanessa Amorosi recorded in 2010.
Faith Hill who recorded it in 1993.
Erma Franklin who originally recorded the song in 1967.
Beverly Knight from 2005 (This video has been closed)
Company of Thieves live from Daryl’s House 2009.
Joss Stone & Beverly Knight.

* Interview with Laura Joplin, Janis’ younger sister. This is from 2003.

* Official Janis Joplin Website.

* Janis (1h 36m 44s) -1974 documentary directed by Howard Alk with assistance from Albert Grossman. It seems YouTube have taken this video down.

* Robert Crumb website – Crumb drew the Cheap Thrills album cover in a single overnight drawing session.

And the next road takes us to?

North:  Hesitation Blues by Hot Tuna.
East:     New Speedway Boogie … done.
South:   Medley: Summertime/Motherless Child  by Mahalia Jackson 
West:    Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin

Crossroad 18

Crossroad 17: New Speedway Boogie

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New Speedway Boogie

The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead were the second band to have an album in my collection. The first was Creedence Clearwater Revival. To Creedence’s self-titled first album, I added The Dead’s Anthem of the Sun … immediately doubling my collection.

It is somewhat inaccessible, Anthem of the Sun. Track 3, Born Cross-Eyed, opens with a descriptive couplet:

Seems like I’ve been here before
Fuzzy then and still obscure – goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

Although there were parts of the album I loved, it meandered a bit much – a Dead trait I was not quite ready for. So, I said goodbye, goodbye, goodbye to The Dead.

I don’t think I even heard their next two releases – two of their best Aoxomoxoa and Live/Dead. Live/Dead remains one of the best live albums (well, if you ignore the 7m 49s of Feedback) … and definitely the best titled one.

My “Dead” hiatus came to an end in 1970 when they released Workingman’s Dead. They had been hanging around with Crosby, Stills & Nash and the influence was pretty clear.  Workingman’s Dead had 8 great tracks making up a great album – although for some of my mates it was perilously close to country.

The Grateful Dead circa 1970

The Grateful Dead circa 1970

New Speedway Boogie is track 4, it was also on the B-side when Uncle John’s Band was released as a single.

The song is supposedly about the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in December 1969 – four short months after Woodstock a dark curtain dropped on a colourful decade. The events at Altamont are well known. Perhaps less known are the circumstances that led to the staging of Altamont and its subsequent notoriety. But its impact has been most succinctly expressed in a verse of Don Maclean’s anthem:

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again
So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
Cause fire is the devil’s only friend
And as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

The Rolling Stones were the headline act. The Grateful Dead were scheduled to go on before them. The Dead refused to perform because of the escalating violence – apparently the final straw was hearing that Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane) was knocked out by one of the Hells Angels.

New Speedway Boogie was written by Robert Hunter (lyrics) & Jerry Garcia (music), supposedly as an answer to the Ralph J. Gleason’s indictment of the Altamont affair. It must have been written pretty quickly because apparently it was first played at the Fillmore (SF) on 20th December – just 2 weeks after Altamont.

I know it is a device used often but I really like  the “I don’t know but I been told” military cadence – I think the attraction is the feigned ignorance followed by a “pearl of wisdom”. In this song:

Now I don’t know but I been told, it’s hard to run with the weight of gold
Other hand I’ve heard it said, it’s just as hard with the weight of lead.

Now I don’t know but I been told, in the heat of the sun a man died of cold.

Now I don’t know but I been told, if the horse don’t pull you you got to carry the load

The middle line reminiscent of the ambiguity, even paradox – maybe nonsense – found in Stephen Foster’s Oh Susannah (at Crossroad 14):

Rained all night the day I left
The weather, it was dry
Sun so hot I froze to death

 This idea of being hot yet freezing to death dates back a lot further. Geoffrey Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde wrote:

Alas! What is this wonder malady?
For heat of cold, for cold of heat, I dye.

Where am I going with this … buggered if I know. But I do wonder if writers like Robert Hunter “sample” works from centuries ago – I’m sure they do. Also I just love this sort of ambiguity …

As Ken Kesey once said:  “Some things aren’t true, even if they did happen.”

It wasn’t long after Workingman’s Dead that I wrote in and enrolled as a Dead Head.

What do New Speedway Boogie and What Are Their Names have in common?

Jerry Garcia.

Isn’t that enough?

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Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* Live Performance of New Speedway Boogie from 1970The Grateful Dead (6m 28s).

* Cover version by Melbourne band Black Cab from their 2004 debut album, Altamont Diary.

* Official Grateful Dead Website

* Listen to a swag of live versions of New Speedway Boogie at Heady Versions – a website dedicated to finding the best versions of Grateful Dead songs.

* Saturday Night At The Speedway subtitled Exposing Altamont in a TexturaI Analysis of the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie”  – a mouthful I know, but a very interesting essay.

* San Francisco Chronicle clippings – Ralph J. Gleason’s columns from 1969 – 28th November and 5th, 12th, 18th December. Interesting reading from just before and just after Altamont.

* The Rolling Stones@Altamont | We’re Not In Woodstock Any More … a blog post with some great photos. The entire blog is well worth a look. It is called: The Selvedge Yard – a historical record of artistry, anarchy, alchemy, and authenticity

* Gimme Shelter (1h 31m 41s) – the film chronicles of the Rolling Stones 1969 US Tour which finished with their performance at Altamont.

And the next road takes us to?

North:  What Are Their Names – they’re back at the last stop.
East:     Long Black Veil by The Band
South:   Train Round The Bend  by The Velvet Underground 
West:    Piece Of My Heart by Big Brother & The Holding Company

Crossroad 17

Crossroad 16: What Are Their Names

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What Are Their Names

David Crosby

photo from Willard's Wormhole

David Crosby

What Are Their Names comes from David Crosby’s 1971 solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name.

Crosby had written (or co-written) some songs that were often on my turntable.  Long Time Gone, Wooden Ships, Deja Vu, Almost Cut My Hair – from the albums Crosby, Stills & Nash & Deja VuTriad, from Jefferson Airplane’s Crown Of Creation was another favourite written by Crosby. And also the haunting Everybody’s Been Burned from The Byrds 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday.

I really like his songs.

He’d lined up a veritable who’s who of West Coast psychedelia to play on the album. Most of The Grateful Dead, Grace Slick & Paul Kantner from Jefferson Airplane, his colleagues from CSNY, Joni Mitchell, Greg Rolie & Michael Shrieve from Santana, & David Frieberg from Quicksilver Messenger Service.

My school lunch money would be much better saved and spent on this album … than on a couple of pies from the canteen.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Unfortunately, my vinyl copy was lost sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s. A time when I was lost and my collection was decimated through various household moves, break-ups, break-ins, and desperation sales.

Crosby himself, was lost for an extended period around the same time and a bit later … ending up with a list of convictions and eventually spending some time in prison in Texas. He was in a dark place. By the mid-90’s he needed a liver transplant – primarily due to his immoderate approach to drug and alcohol consumption. He survived and will turn 72 in August this year.

How do What Are Their NamesOhio relate to each other?

A song from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young makes for an easy link to songs from any of the individual members of CSNY.

The 3 songs coming out of the Ohio crossroad were each selected because they have a political edge. What Are Their Names has continued political relevance today, being used as an unofficial anthem in the Occupy Wall Street leaderless resistance movement in late 2011.

The song’s progression seems to match that of the Occupy movement  – a soft, leaderless and loose movement of sound, connecting & threading its way to finally aggregate into a moving, powerful song that is all too brief … then petering out and fading away.

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Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* Personal Notes (about the album tracks) from Stephen Barncard, producer of If I Could Only Remember My Name.

* During December 1970, around the time of recording If I Could Only Remember My Name, David Crosby, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh & Mickey Hart, played a few nights at The Matrix in San Francisco. It seems they were billed as Jerry Garcia & Friends but also called themselves David & The Dorks; Jerry & The Jets; or David & The Ding-A-Lings.

This link takes you to 6 recordings from those sessions: David & The Dorks. And this one to a little information: Willard’s Wormholes.

* What Are Their Names is the subject of a post in a great blog called Political Tunes – The Politics In Popular Songs.

And the next road takes us to?

North:  Chestnut Mare by The Byrds
East:     Greasy Heart by Jefferson Airplane
South:   New Speedway Boogie by The Grateful Dead 
West:    We just visited Ohio 

Crossroad 16

Crossroad 15: Ohio

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Ohio

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

So much has been written about this song, Ohio, and the event that inspired Neil Young to write it. The event was, of course, the killing of 4 students, on 4th May 1970, during a peace demonstration at the Kent State University. If you want more detail on this there are links below, under the heading “Other Stuff You Might Enjoy”.

America was at its own crossroad.

Kent State University - 4th May 1970

Kent State University – 4th May 1970

Ohio was recorded just 17 days after the killings and released as a single in June 1970, the “B-side” was Stephen Stills’ Find The Cost Of Freedom. It first appeared on an album in 1971 when Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young released their live double album – 4 Way Street.

My first recollection of hearing Ohio was when listening to 4 Way Street – over a year after the Kent State U events, it still poignantly conveyed the sense of disbelief and shock. I guess that is understandable as 4 Way Street was recorded around the time Ohio was released.

Although I never owned this album, it regularly traveled through our networked community vinyl collection – it was under my arm a few times as I walked home from visiting it’s “home” collection at Glen Davidson’s place.

The studio version of Ohio finally appeared on the 1974 CSNY compilation So Far and then on Neil Young’s 1977 compilation Decade. Neil Young wrote the following in the sleeve notes for Decade:

Neil Young on Ohio (from Decade)

Neil Young on Ohio (from Decade)

If this is illegible to you, it says:

OHIO. It’s still hard to believe I had to write this song. It’s ironic that I capitalized on the death of these American students. Probably the biggest lesson ever learned at an American place of learning. My best CSNY cut. Recorded totally live in Los Angeles. David Crosby cried after this take.

How are Ohio and Oh Susannah connected?

By the “Oh”? No! Well, yes they do both start with “Oh”.

But, just as obvious … the connection is Neil Young who performs Oh Susannah, and writes Ohio.

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Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* “Four Dead in O-hi-o”. An excellent, if long, article on the Kent State University killings written by Jack Doyle for the website Pop History Dig.

* Neil Young’s Ohio – The Greatest Protest Record a very interesting article published in The Guardian in 2010. Written by Dorian Lynskey.

* The Official Neil Young YouTube Channel

* Neil Young Documentary: Part 1 (14m 51s); Part 2 (13m 57s); Part 3 (14m 21s); Part 4 (7m 49s).

* Cover of Ohio by DEVO. Jerry Casale, a founding member of Devo, was at Kent State and witness the shootings that killed two of his friends. Casale, at the time saw the Young song as a means for “rich hippies” to make money out of a horrible event. Many years later Devo would play with Young and they suggested the title Rust Never Sleeps for a later project of Young’s. Unfortunately this video has been deleted from You Tube due to copyright claims.

And the next road takes us to?

North:  Chicago by Graham Nash
East:     What Are Their Names by David Crosby
South:   Oh Susannah. 
West:   For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield

Crossroad 15

Crossroad 14: Oh Susannah

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Oh Susannah

Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Last year Neil Young released two albums Americana and Psychadelic Pill, both with Crazy Horse. This song – Oh Susannah – opens the Americana album.

American - Oh Susannah

It was written by Stephen Fosterhis first success. First published in 1848 it is one of the best known of all American songs … and not only in America, I certainly recall singing it in either infants or primary school. In fact, besides Oh Susannah, there are 4 other songs on Amercana that would almost certainly have been known by pre-teens in 20th century Australia – Clementine, Tom Dula (Tom Dooley), Jesus’s Chariot (She’ll Be Coming ’round The Mountain), and God Save The Queen.

Over the years the song has changed considerably. The original lyric and the way it was performed (black-faced minstrels) showed the embedded racism in American culture at that time. The song’s evolution has rendered it quite benign and most of its earlier meaning lost and forgotten.

In the early sixties, Tim Rose wrote a new arrangement of Oh Susannah. It was released in 1963 as The Banjo Song by The Big 3. The three member of The Big 3 were Tim Rose, Jim Hendricks, and Mama Cass Elliot.

Here is The Banjo Song by The Big 3:

In 1969 The Banjo Song reemerged as a new song with new lyrics composed by Robbie van Leeuwin. Robbie was the guitarist for Dutch band Shocking Blue – the song was Venus. It was a hit in 1969 and in 1986 it again went to the top of the charts for Bananarama.

This Tim Rose arrangement has been used by Neil Young here, he has reverted back to the lyric known universally.

(It was Tim Rose’s arrangement of Hey Joe that Jimi Hendrix used and was the trigger for his meteoric rise.)

What connects Oh Susannah to Days Of 49?

The gold rush!

Soon after Oh Susannah’s debut in Pittsburgh, the song swept through the United States and became a favourite of the forty-niners – the thousands who made their way to California seeking their fortune.

As well, one of Neil Young’s earlier albums was After The Goldrush.

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Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* Explore Oh Susanna at Shmoop, an excellent educational website. This exploration examines all aspects of the song, its history and context.

* Arthur Fields’ 1925 recording containing the original lyrics.

* Bridge School Benefit Concert 2011Neil Young, Dave Matthews, & Tim Reynolds perform an acoustic version of Oh Susannah at this annual benefit started by Young & his wife Pegi.

* The transformation: The Banjo Song to Venus to Oh Susannah … The Big 3, Shocking Blue, Bananarama, a German reality TV group, Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

And the next road takes us to?

North:  Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
East:     Old Dan Tucker by Bruce Springsteen
South:  Days of 49 – they’ve passed us by.
West:   Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix Eexperience

Crossroad 14

Crossroad 13: Days of 49

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Days of 49

Bob Dylan

In 1970 Bob Dylan releases Self Portrait. The opening sentence of the review by Greil Marcus in Rolling Stone read:

“What is this shit?”

I remember seeing the cover and a similar question arose. I read somewhere (years later) that Dylan had an old canvas square, some oils and 5 minutes later he handed over the painting for the cover.

A canvas, some oils, and 5 minutes and ... voila! Album cover.

A canvas, some oils, and 5 minutes and … voila! Album cover.

We were all confused …

It was strange enough dealing with Nashville Skyline – his musical shift to country the year earlier. But this issue from Dylan, according to many, spelled his end. Dylan himself has disparaged it. In Chronicles Volume One:

I released one album (a double one) where I just threw everything I could think of at the wall and whatever stuck, real eased it, and then went back an scooped up everything that didn’t stick and released that, too.

He didn’t name the album but it sure fits Self Portrait. Perhaps the most telling judgement of Self Portrait came when he was asked why it was a double album and he allegedly replied:

Well, it wouldn’t have held up as a single album – then it really would have been bad, you know. I mean, if you’re gonna put a lot of crap on it, you might as well load it up.

Back to the song – Days of 49 – the 4th track on the 1st of Self Portrait’s 4 sides of vinyl. I’d never really thought about who wrote the song – it just seems to fit with Dylan the Storyteller. In fact, to me it sounds more Dylan than all the Dylan-composed tracks on Self Portrait.

But it’s not. It was written around 1874 by Charles Bensell – a banjo player who also used the stage name Charlie Rhoades. It has also been attributed to Joaquin Miller – though his lyric is quite different.

Old Tom Moore was a 49-er, went looking for gold and, like so many, found disillusion instead. He also found himself a “jolly saucy crew”. In Dylan’s version they were,

New York Jake, the butcher’s boy – killed by old Bob Stein; Poker Bill – who lost his breath in a game of death; and Ragshag Bill from Buffalo who fell in a prospect hole.

In other versions you’ll find: Monte Pete; Hackensack Jim; North Carolina Jess, poor lame Ches, Big Reuben, Kentuck Jim and, if you search, you’ll probably find plenty of others.

How does Days of 49 link with Santy Anno?

Well it could be the “Spider” John Koerner-Bob Dylan link. Spider John also recorded Days of 49 for his 1996 album – Stargeezer. (I couldn’t find “Spider” John’s version online, unfortunately.)

What cause me to to think of Days of 49 while listening to Santy Anno was the verse:

Well, back in the days of forty-nine.
Heave away, Santy Anno.
Oh those were the days of the good old times.
All on the plains of Mexico.

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(October 2014: Damnation! It looks the honchos at Sony have got put the blocks on this. Unfortunately, I have been able to find another.)

Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* Days of 49 – sung by Jules Verne Allen (1883-1945).

* The infamous review of Self Portrait from Greil Marcus

* Every Bob Dylan Song – a blog, as the title suggests, giving the blogger’s opinion of every Dylan song. This link takes you to his review of Days of 49.

And the next road takes us to?

North:  Oh! Susanah by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
East:     Rambling, Gambling Willy by Bob Dylan. (Yes, I know)
South:  Santy Anno – has sailed away.
West:   Nashville Blues by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and others.

Crossroad 13