I am hoping that this will become a recurring feature here, in which I summon the collected wisdom of the Hall to help me understand what certain songs are actually about. Mostly these will be very familiar songs, some of them songs I like very much; but songs which, if push comes to shove, I actually have no idea what they are about. This isn’t to say that a song actually has to be about anything, or maybe better to say that it doesn’t have to be about any one thing. Anyway, you probably get the idea.
I want to start with “Happy Jack” by the Who. A good song, short and to the point. Can someone tell me what this song is about?
Guys, I’ll stand up here and you all try to melt into the shadows, ok?
Mod’s recent foray into the orange singles box of his youth and the inclusion of CCR’s superb “Commotion,” along with my recent viewing of CCR live at the Royal Albert Hall in April 1970, got me to thinking about Creedence. I never owned any Creedence singles and until my 30s, probably, never owned any Creedence albums other than an old tape I made of Creedence Gold way back. But just from listening to FM radio growing up, I knew a ton of Creedence recordings. Based on my occasional visits to classic rock radio in more recent times, Creedence is still in very heavy, one might say excessive, rotation, though a more limited selection of songs than in the olden days, I think. I suspect that to many younger listeners Creedence is overly familiar, beaten to death, worn out.
But, jeez, what a crazy burst of creativity their records are. Setting aside the pre-CCR Golliwog recordings, they hit the ground running with their first lp in July 1968, and over the next 2 1/2 years out pour five–five!–albums, ranging from very good to absolute killer: Bayou Country (1/69), Green River (8/69), Willy & the Poor Boys (11/69), Cosmo’s Factory (7/70), and Pendulum (12/70). (Clearly, sleep was not a priority in 1969.) Then, the afterthought of Mardi Gras (4/72). They place 14 songs in the Top 40 during that same 1968-1972 period (including the b-side “Commotion”).
John Fogerty’s post-Creedence records have never much interested me. The first record definitely has its moments and I think Mardi Gras does as well though I don’t know when I last listened to it. So, really, I think when we talk about CCR we are looking at the crazy-prolific 2-year span of 1969-1970. For my money, Green River and Cosmo’s Factory are the best of the lot. I never get tired of all 7 minutes plus of “Ramble Tamble.”
But the thing is, I know next to nothing about Creedence.
A fair amount of time here is spent ripping performers. But let’s face it: sometimes someone you like a lot gets ripped, and that pisses you off. So I got to thinking: there must be someone who everyone here can rip, who we can all agree is completely loathsome, nauseating, run-from-the-room-screaming horrible. A benchmark of badness. Has to be more or less recognizable as rock and roll: so that rules out someone like Barry Manilow. My first thought went to Styx, but sometimes their awfulness actually cracks me up. Journey comes pretty close to covering all the bases for me, but I am sure someone out there has warm feeling for them.
As bad as it gets?
Which brings me to Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. When I was a kid I knew they were terrible. “Sylvia’s Mother,” “Cover of the Rolling Stone”? Gag. “Only Sixteen,” “Sexy Eyes,” “When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman,” “Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk”? Double gag. Time has passed, and they are still bloody horrendous, and in a variety of ways. They get bonus points for sucking at country-ish tunes, ballads, rock, and disco. Also, their Look is as bad as their sound.
What’s hard to square with all of this is that the rather talented Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends) wrote some of their songs, including the truly execrable “Sylvia’s Mother.”
So, with near total confidence, I offer Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. No one could like them. It can get no worse. (Right?)
There are certain songs, like ’em or loathe ’em, that have the ability to transport you back to the time when they were popular. For me, even though, as Elton John says, “I was just a kid,” and a kid who felt obliged to hate disco reflexively, one of those songs is the timeless “More More More” by Andrea True Connection. Thus, when I read last week that she had died, I felt a real pang of sadness. Like most everyone else at this point, I think, I knew the basics of her story–porn actress turned disco diva turned one-hit wonder–but reading about her life and her aspirations was more poignant than I would have expected. Anyway, there you have it.
I also want to know if anyone else (or everyone else) associates this song with the similarly memorable “Fly Robin Fly” by Silver Connection. My assumption is that they must have been hits simultaneously, but I haven’t checked on that.
As an American, the death of Sir (yes, good heavens, he was knighted) Jimmy Savile cannot have the resonance with me that it might for many Brits of a certain age. Let’s think of him as a kind of freaky Dick Clark. Well: at least freaky in a different way. Anyway, for a long time, he was to me just “that really weird guy who pops up in a lot of old British invasion clips.” But as the longtime host of Top of the Pops he was undoubtedly a sort of institution in the UK. Perhaps Happiness Stan can put this in some perspective for us. In the meantime, here is the New York Times obit.
Yes, as it must to all men, death came to Paul Leka, co-writer of the immortal “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye),” a #1 hit for imaginary group Steam in 1969, as well as the writer/producer of psychedelic bubblegum classic “Green Tambourine,” and more. Read all about it here and watch “Steam” in their “performance” of “Na Na Hey Hey,” a rare case of a band becoming more faceless after you see them than they were before.