The River's Badge

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ahhh, 1984

The eighties. Some people love 'em, some hate 'em. I loved them. In music, that is. And life in general was pretty good. We had a good president, a more or less unified country. People were essentially happy.

There are times in music that reflect people's state of consciousness. The late sixties were angry, raucous; and thus was the music. The seventies lulled everyone into a quiet catatonia, which gave rise to artists like John Denver and the Carpenters. Times were bad. People had to wait in line to fill their cars with gas. While Jimmy Carter quietly read his Bible in the White House, everyday folk were clawing to put food on the table for their kids and bemoaning that the world was going to hell. The soft strums of Denver's twelve-string helped to quell the bitter bile that rose in people's throats.

The nineties were a blur. No one stood for anything. The nineties were a static line. Not bad; not necessarily good. They just existed.

I am a firm believer that the mood of the populace at any given time can be gleaned from its music. We are reflections of the life we live.

I hadn't yet turned thirty by 1984, so life was alive with possibilities and new wonders. I had two boys who were turning out quite nicely; I never had much money -- I had a little credit union account at the hospital where I worked, in which I would deposit a little money from each paycheck to save for our summer vacation, which invariably took place in the Black Hills of South Dakota -- camping in a pop-up trailer. Camping beneath the tall pines. Granted, I've always been a creature of habit, but if you find a place you love, why only visit it once? The blacktop on the way there was hot and dusty, our car had air conditioning that worked "sometimes" -- at least until it froze up and then we'd roll down the windows and let the hot breath of July whisk the sweat from our sunburned faces. We played Mad Libs, the boys tried their best to annoy one another; we joked and bantered.

And we had the music.

I expected this song to be the number one hit of 1984, as much as we heard it. I mean, as much as we heard it. Over and over and over again. But surprisingly, it was only number six. I eventually formed a raw hate for the song, but that happens anytime one is forced to listen to something ad nauseum. We didn't have choices; no iPods and certainly no cell phones. What? A phone one can take with you? When our camper blew a tire along Highway 83, we couldn't punch up a highway helper. Instead we limped along to the first town on the map; thumped rubber for eighteen miles 'til we got to a truck stop that, mercifully, had a tire in stock that fit. If Van Halen was playing on the radio somewhere along that eighteen-mile chug, I'm sure I punched a tiny fist-sized dent in the car speaker.


I loved Huey Lewis & The News. Huey always seemed to me like the accountant who got pulled onto the stage on karaoke night and was mortified, but decided to just go with it. And he knocked everybody out and found himself the talk of the office come Monday morning. "Who knew?" Good old Hugh from down the hall. The guy with the pocket protector!"

I don't get it, but this song was only number forty-four:




When I first saw this next video, I thought, "what a quirky girl!". Cyndi Lauper was definitely different. She wasn't Madonna (that's a good thing). She was her own self, and nobody was complaining (#15 on the year). Totally the vibe of the eighties:


Culture Club was certainly different, but that was a-okay. Boy George was a pretty girl; soft, feminine. It didn't even cross my mind to make any judgments. I liked their music. This song was number ten for the year:


Confession:  I never saw this movie. I may have seen a part of this movie, but never the whole thing. And that's just not like me. I'm all about guys dancing -- from Saturday Night Fever to Dirty Dancing to Grease. Men won't understand this, but women love to see a guy dancing. It's sexy, maybe because it's so rare. It takes an elegant confidence for a man to get out there and do it. John Travolta did it (twice), Patrick Swayze did it with awesomeness. And Kenny Loggins also did it (in the guise of Kevin Bacon):


And then there is this:


An aside -- practically every movie soundtrack from the eighties featured Kenny Loggins. It was decreed.

Ghostbusters:  Had to buy the t-shirts; my kids demanded them. The red circle crossing out the ghost in the middle. Ghostbusters was a touchstone of the eighties. I didn't get it then; later I watched the movie and still didn't get it. I love Bill Murray, but this movie is essentially lame. It has...count 'em...two laughs in its entirety. It was an eighties thing, which requires no explanation. It just was:


There are two artists who essentially dominated the eighties. Like 'em or loathe them; it's how it was. There are tons of hits from 1984 and I'm just scratching the surface, but let's give credit where it's due. And it's due here:


Courtney Cox was just some girl in a music video who was pulled onstage by Bruce Springsteen. Who knew she would later become mega-rich and would live on in reruns forever. Nevertheless, this video is about Bruce, not Courtney. And Bruce was, only after Lionel (sorry) almost the biggest name of the eighties:


Yep, somebody's sorely missing. Trouble is, he was pathologically private about sharing his music online. Sad for many reasons, but primarily because he had the biggest hit of 1984. I'll try next time around to find something of his to post. Or, failing that, maybe I'll just post his picture.

Nineteen eighty-four:  happiness.

It's gonna be a hard year to beat.













Friday, June 10, 2016

Hello!

Well, hello spammers! I'm curious -- do you get paid to spam blogs with comments? Or are you doing it for free? If you're not making some moolah for doing it, then shoot, that's just sad. Or are you not even a real live person?

I love comments, but I don't write in the hope that somebody's going to even read my posts, much less remark upon them. I honestly write for me. I used to get comments now and then, but Google has changed something -- in some mysterious way. Now the only comments I receive are from "Christy Blndrmoux" or someone with another made-up name; telling me how her cousin, twice-removed, made ten bazillion dollars by posting nonsensical comments on the net.

Or comments like:

"Entity, look within and empower yourself. How should you navigate this heroic grid? The quantum cycle is calling to you via molecular structures. Can you hear it?"

Well...thanks?

I'm guessing these "people" don't claim English as their first language. Or else they're Scientologists. I could go either way on that.

You robots or other-type aliens obviously don't care that you're pissing people off, who at first glance think, "Hey, I have a comment!" and then read it and realize it's someone who thinks they know English but who, for obvious reasons, got a failing grade in class. And then we have to go to the bother of marking it as spam and wistfully wishing a real live person would write something once that actually made sense.

I'm good with no comments....really. However, if you (and by "you", I mean a breathing human being) would like to say something, I'm on board! But if you're a badly-programmed automaton, can you please go bother someone else? Cuz I'm old and I am easily aggravated.

Thank you.




Saturday, June 4, 2016

1966 ~ Yes, There's More

I'm really not obsessed with the year 1966. Really. If I was asked which years in rock music were the best, nineteen sixty-six wouldn't be my first choice, or my third. As I mentioned at the beginning of these (now four!) posts, this whole thing was an experiment to prove my husband wrong, who opined that 1966 was the best year in music. I'm sure I mentioned that '66 wasn't a primo year in my life. If one was to choose an ideal time to be ripped away from everything familiar and thrust into a new town, new state, new school, the awkward adolescent years are probably not going to be anyone's first choice.

Maybe that's why I remember that year so well. It was a dichotomy ~ part of the year was sunshine; the other part was the ravages of hell. I eventually settled in, but I thank God for my transistor radio.

I probably mentioned that I relied upon my big brother for musical guidance. He had every album worth having, while little me had a pittance of 45's, which mostly consisted of the Beatles. And he guided me along; talked to me about music. Explained things. I never was a big question-asker,  because I didn't want to give myself away as a rube, but I wondered about things. Things like, can a group really name themselves after a punctuation mark?

Apparently so. Here is ? and the Mysterians:


My best friend and I used to comb the streets of our town, looking for eleven-year-old action.  The only "action" we could find was the local disc jockey doing a remote broadcast from a men's apparel store. But to us it was exciting, even though there were approximately three people inside the store. Plus the guy gave out free 45's. "Daydream" had been the perfect summer song for me. Lazy, like me. Lemonade and creme cookies on the front porch. But the Spoonful's next song was different; dissonant. (And of course there was Zal.) Cathy liked the track better than I did, but I eventually came around:


I don't exactly know how I missed the Rascals. Later, of course, when they were "Groovin," they could not be ignored. Hot sun on concrete, sunbathing by the pool, white-framed sunglasses shading my eyes. But that was '67. Thank goodness for retrospectives. And, no, it wasn't the Dr. Pepper commercial that turned me on to them:


I never actually liked Paul Revere & The Raiders for their music. I liked them for the posters I hung on my bedroom wall.  If you'd asked me what my favorite PR&TR song was, I would be struck dumb. I was an eleven-year-old fraud. Nevertheless, this was one I sort of knew:


You youngsters out there (as Ed Sullivan would say) probably think this song was a huge deal in 1966, seeing as how it's been used in the soundtrack of every teen movie since the eighties. But it actually wasn't.  It certainly was no "Born To Be Wild". I wonder whatever happened to the Troggs, but I don't wonder too much.


One of the actual documented incidences of someone from the sixties using the word "groovy" is contained herein. Contrary to popular myth, people didn't go around using the term "groovy". I, in fact, don't think I ever uttered it, and I grew up during that time. Regardless, who can forget Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders?


I'm sure there is a reason I remember the Hollies, I think it may be because of "The Air That I Breathe" or I'm guessing "Carrie Anne".  I liked both those songs a lot.  This one was okay, but it's their most remembered song, so who am I to judge (apparently)?



Tommy Roe. I wanted to say he's a product of the sixties, but then I realized I'm talking about the sixties.  Tommy Roe is sort of Lou Christie without the falsetto, so that gives him a leg up automatically. Let me just say that in 1973 Tommy had a song called, "Working Class Hero" that was completely different...and good! Really good.


One day I grew up. No, I wasn't necessarily hopeless about good music. "Eyes of a New York Woman" in 1968 was, and still is, pretty much untouchable. I didn't know much about Hank Williams except for Jambalaya. (I know much more now.) And I guess I didn't know that this was a Hank Williams song:


I'm going to close out 1966 (really) with the song that my husband feels is the best of the year. This song was written by Paul Simon. The track wouldn't have even been an ink blot on the folds of my memory, but since my husband started this whole thing, I think it's fitting that I finish it with his song. This is The Cyrkle:


Adieu, 1966. 

It was nice, yet scary and forbidding, to remember you.




















Wednesday, June 1, 2016

1966 In Music ~ The Quirky


The years 1966/1967 were transitional ones in the music industry. By 1968 one would never hear a song on the radio that wasn't "sanctioned" by the keepers of the groovy rock and roll flame. In 1966, still though, one could hear songs that didn't exactly fit the mold. That's probably why people of my generation have more eclectic musical tastes, whereas the current generation of radio listeners don't stray from their worthless pile of crap (oh sorry, editorializing again). It's why I can appreciate Frank Sinatra and the Glenn Miller Orchestra, in addition to Dwight Yoakam and the Beau Brummels (look it up).

So, while a wide swath of the year-end chart was filled with rock (or more correctly, pop) songs, a few strays managed to wander in.

And here they are:

This instrumental was recorded by a group called the T-Bones. Instrumentals were also a dying breed by this time. The last big instrumental hit I remember was in 1968, when the Ventures recorded the theme song for Hawaii Five-O.  Nevertheless, this is called "No Matter What Shape":


The main reason this track sticks with me is because it was also used in an Alka-Seltzer commercial. Yes, TV to a child of the sixties was like God speaking from heaven (sadly but truly).

Watch it here:


Remember Andy Williams? Yea, I don't much, either. He did a lot of Christmas specials and he introduced the Osmonds to a national viewing audience, but I never watched his show. Sorry, I did have to draw the line somewhere. I did like "Moon River", though. My main beef with Andy is that he recorded possibly the worst Christmas song of all time. Christmas songs are supposed to be pretty. This one was jazzy, and not in a good way. The sound system at my previous workplace used to play it at least five times a day, and I had to be restrained from smashing multiple computers. I deigned to never learn the name of the song and I hope I never have to hear it again.

Be that as it may, Andy had a hit with this next song in 1966. I'm tempted to say my seventh grade choir had to learn it - I could be wrong. We learned a lot of really bad, bad songs.


I always loved Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. So sue me. Herb had a great gig going for a few years, playing with his brass-mates. I bet he rolled in zillions (maybe not quite that many) dollars playing his trumpet. Later, unfortunately, someone convinced him he could sing, and he did "This Guy's In Love With You". Really painful. He redeemed himself, however, by forming A&M records with some guy whose name started with an "M"...Hold on....Jerry Moss. A&M Records is most famous for recording the Carpenters, and sadly, the Captain and Tennille. But let's get back to the Brass:

(Sorry, the only video I could find that wasn't a static picture was horrendous, so I went with the static picture).




How can that song not make you want to get up and do a mean syrtos, kalamatianos, pyrrhichios, hasapiko or sirtaki? (No clue, really, but thanks, Wikipedia!)

This next song isn't "quirky", but rather, "good". It was more of a surprise, because Bobby Darin was that finger-snapping guy who did "Mack The Knife". Yet here was a new Bobby Darin. Sadly, Bobby died young. But he left us with this:


Shockingly, a country song also made the Hot 100 in 1966. I would embed it here, but the only performance video is unembeddable (please tell me why).  Suffice it to say that "Almost Persuaded" by David Houston was apparently huge in not only country corners but on the mainstream charts as well. I attribute that to the piano riff, which will live in the memories of old folks like me forever. If you are interested in learning about David Houston (who also, like Bobby Darin, died far too young) and why this song was a hit, click here.

Nancy Sinatra tried hard to be a singer. She recorded a bunch of songs with Lee Hazlewood; songs that weren't bad. She wasn't a natural singer, but how many of us really are? Not me! And she managed to score a hit that will linger forever in campy history. I think I did a karaoke version of this once. I'm sure I was drinking....

Are ya ready, boots? Start walkin'! 


If a little kid can be jaded, I was soooo jaded about a Petula Clark song in 1964. I remember shopping with my mom ~ there weren't shopping malls then ~ you had to trundle out into the snow and enter the department store through a frosty glass door ~ and every display shelf where I lingered, I heard, When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go..............downtown.

Okay! Dang! I got it! Geez, I just want to go home! Stop torturing me!

So, I may have a bit of a misplaced dislike for Petula. But she was actually a really good singer and it's time to get over it. So here's Petula's hit from 1966:


I admit, I always found Lou Christie to be..okay, creepy. A good falsetto I can appreciate. Heck, Frankie Valli made a living from it. Maybe it was the songs. The weird thing is, he recorded a song that I love love love, that I only found by watching the movie, "Rain Man". I've probably already featured "Beyond The Blue Horizon" once or twice or more in this blog. I don't get why Lou didn't do more songs like that. But let's go with the 1966 hit that I guess made him some good dough:


 Sam the Sham was a good moniker for someone whose real name was Domingo Samudio. Again, I was a kid, so I didn't know that sham meant "phony". He wore a turban, so I thought "sham" was some kind of royal title. Every frat house movie ever made puts more jingle into Domingo's pocket, because "Woolly Bully" is the ultimate party song. But that hit came before 1966. I bought this next single and I don't even know why, because I don't really care for it. Again, I apologize for the bad, out of sync video, but it's all I can find:


Okay, this (this!) was the number one song of 1966. I'm very patriotic but I'm also a music lover. It's a delicate balance. If you grew up around my time, all you heard was Viet Nam, Viet Nam. My big brother enlisted in the National Guard so he wouldn't have to go to Viet Nam. 

Da Nang, Saigon. The Ho Chi Minh Trail. It wasn't a Robin Williams movie. It was all a mistake, a blunder. Thousands of our finest men got killed for nothing. Nothing. And it was a reality that thundered in our ears, day by day by day. 

I became pen pals through one of those back-of-the-magazine ads, with a soldier who was deployed to Viet Nam. I was barely a teenager, and had no right to even pretend to understand what those guys were enduring. I hope he came home okay.

Sergeant Barry Sadler, who I don't know anything about but would like to learn, somehow, perhaps through serendipity, recorded this song. In 1966 everybody hated everybody ~ the hippies hated the old-timers and John Wayne sure as hell hated Jane Fonda. Everybody basically did.

As a music lover, I cringe at this song. As a patriot, I'm going to cut it some slack:


I didn't mean to get all heavy on a topic that was supposed to be fun. 1966 is a snapshot. It was what it was and we can nestle in its bubble and listen to the Monkees, or we can appreciate it for its jagged existence.

On the happy side, I appear to have missed some fine hits from 1966, so I just might do an addendum.  

Just to get out of this funk.

 






















Tuesday, May 31, 2016

1966 ~ Even More Music!


I was going to make this post about the bad hits of 1966. Well, not "bad", per se, but let's say "quirky" hits. Hits that don't really jibe with the 1966 vibe. The trouble is, I'm not done with the best ones yet; there are just too many. Maybe 1966 was better than my cloudy mind remembered.

I had one birthday party in my whole life. Yes, that's right. Kids were deprived back then. I invited every kid in my class, plus my cousins and of course my best friend, who didn't go to the same school as I. This next song created a bit of a tiff between my best friend and another friend from school (I really only had one "true" friend, but this was, I guess a friend-in-waiting, in case the main friend was unable to fulfill her duties.) Anyway, I had asked for a couple of 45's and when I opened this one from friend-in-waiting, I exclaimed, "Just what I wanted!" Well, this did not go over well with best friend, who complained, "I thought you wanted....". Despite hard feelings, I still love this song:


(Yes, Bill Medley had a career even before "Dirty Dancing".)

Another major milestone in my life was the appearance (on NBC) of this phenomenon. By then my family had moved to a new town and I was lonely. So these four became my confidants, unbeknownst to them. My husband and I watched an episode of their show recently and let me tell, you, it was truly awful. In 1966 I didn't care, though. I really only watched it for the music:




I wasn't cool back then. Part of it was because I was a kid. Partially it was because I didn't have enough money to be cool. I had a paltry record collection -- and by "record collection", I mean 45's. My brother had LP's; I only had about two LP's and that was because he bought them for me as gifts. So I didn't have the opportunity to become a sophisticated music connoisuer. One of the LP's my brother bought me, though, had this song on it, and it was sophisticated...well, more so than the Monkees:


The Mamas & The Papas boasted two things that no other group of that time can claim:  two of the best pop singers ever ~ Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot. (The third thing they probably wouldn't "boast" about is that -- I suspect -- Michelle Phillips' mic was always on the "off position.) Oh, and duh, John Phillips wrote the songs (hello!)

I always liked this next song when it came on our kitchen radio. I had absolutely no idea what it meant -- I didn't know why somebody had to stone somebody else. It seemed mean. But I guess that's what packed a punch for me; that and the sort of old-time raggedy piano.


My husband worships Bob Dylan like I worship Merle Haggard. But at least Merle had more than two hit songs. I know, intellectually, that Dylan is a great writer. We were watching a PBS special on the history of Duluth, Minnesota, and the narrator quoted some words about the city. I thought, wow, that says it so poetically. Then she said, "words written by Bob Dylan". So, yea, he can say things better than almost anybody. I give him that.

You know those groups that were always around but never got any respect? Well, here's one now. I think it's because their songs were so....rudimentary? But in 1966 - 1967 hardly anyone was bigger than Tommy James & The Shondells. Ever go to a bar with a juke box or to a wedding dance and not hear "Mony Mony"? I thought not. How about, "crimson and clover over and over"? Yea, so see? Tommy James was the master of repeating the same three or four words over and over and making them a hit. Thus:


Another artist my husband worships is another that I can take or leave. Sure, in 1965 this band had a huge hit song that was famous for its opening guitar riff. But I can count on one hand and have fingers left over, the number of Rolling Stones tracks I truly like. Sorry; that's just how it is. I like Ruby Tuesday and As Tears Go By. This one is...okay:


There's a reason I'm not including a live performance of this next song. There's just something about a seventy-year-old guy singing, "Devil With The Blue Dress". No offense to old dudes; I, too, am old. But you don't mess with my memories. Trust me on this: one could really do the jerk to this song, especially in front of the mirror. Here's Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels:


 I defy anyone to say this is not a great song. I have no idea who comprised the Left Banke; I really should research that one day. This is probably the worst quality video I've ever featured, and it cuts off before the end, but I work with what I've got. "Walk Away Renee":



Some 45's had special sleeves -- not the ones with the cutout in the middle, but ones with real technicolor photographs. I had one of those. It was for "Back In My Arms Again" and it featured three women in elegant long gowns. Kind of like this:


The Supremes had a relatively short shelf-life, but they were huge in their time. This song certainly wasn't my favorite of theirs, but 1966 is what 1966 is. 1964 to 1966 was The Supremes' two-year reign. After that, it all looked kind of irrelevant, like they were trying too hard.

The Turtles hadn't quite hit their stride yet in 1966. That would come a year later with a song that will live forever in the minds of Ferris Bueller fans and in the minds of people like me. I could never quite get a handle on the Turtles. They were like the IT guys in your company; the guys you call when something isn't functioning right, and they pick up the phone if they're not too engrossed in their video game. Then, at the Christmas party, they blow you away with their previously undisclosed awesomeness. That, in essence, is the Turtles.


I think (think!) I have exhausted the best of the best of 1966.

Next time, the quirky.







 







 



Sunday, May 29, 2016

1966



My husband seems to think that 1966 was the nadir of music, but my feeling is that the "best" music is tucked inside the recesses of one's brain. I remember 1964 and 1965 more than 1966. That may be because sixty-six was a rather traumatic year for me, or maybe because I am right.

Thus, I've decided to find out.

Let's stipulate that there are awesome songs and songs that reek in any given year. I'm not going to try to tip the balance in one direction or the other. I'm relying on Billboard to tell me what people were listening to in nineteen sixty-six, because, shoot, I was eleven years old! How good do you think my memory is?

Disclaimer:  We all romanticize the past. Maybe we do that because the present rather sucks. But it's true we remember the good and conveniently forget the awful. Billboard is here to set me straight. Billboard doesn't lie.

In perusing Billboard's chart of the Year-End Hot 100 from 1966, I find that, yes, there were some excellent songs -- songs that jog my memory (in a good way) and songs that I, sadly, didn't glom onto until a few years later. Not sure why that is. Musical tastes mature? I'm always partial to the songs that bring me back to a time and a place. This one does:


John Sebastian is more than "Welcome Back Kotter". And then there's Zal Yanovsky. I don't think any musician in any band has been as joyful as Zal was.

I saw Johnny Rivers in concert a few years ago, in an intimate setting. Trust me, he is superb. Still. Even in 1966 I was enamored of this artist. The "Live At The Whisky A Go Go" album is classic (even if they didn't know how to spell "whiskey"). It's rare that a live album latches on to one's memory, but this one most definitely did.


As I recap 1966, I'm struck by the number of soon-to-be legends who appeared around that time. I'm told that this guy still packs them in -- at age 75! Yea, that's right. All you hip-hoppers out there and you musically-deficient pop artists, take heed. And I knew him when (well, I actually didn't know him personally, but his music...)

Jann Wenner is a jerk. Just induct Neil into the hall of fame already. What is it, some kind of personal vendetta? Moron.


I was in love with this song in 1966. I mean, in loooove. I still rather love it. Don't ask me to explain it. There's just something...


No, I didn't forget those four guys. Yea, they were a thing in 1966. A THING. THE thing. I was there; I know. Oh, and yes, I had this single. I couldn't afford albums - hello? A single in itself cost a buck. I was a kid! I didn't have a job! On the plus side, at least with the Beatles, one got two great songs for the price of one (Day Tripper was the B side...or was it the A side...doesn't matter now.)

Here we see the dichotomy -- earnest Paul; smart-ass John. I like John:


I also had this next single. Remember Donovan? No? Well, here's the deal...Donovan was on some potent stuff, obviously. He helped to usher in the Summer of Love. The Summer of Love was a time when anybody could record whatever the F they wanted and fellow flower brains would swoon, "That's heavy, man!" In actuality, none of it made any sense. I still liked the song, though.


I loved the Beach Boys. I never loved them more than when they released "California Girls". But that was 1965. By 1966, they were already rehashing old songs (before Brian waddled downstairs in his terrycloth robe and commenced to creating Pet Sounds). This hit from '66 proves that you only need about five words to make a hit song, as long as those words are sung with nice harmonies:


Remember when instrumentals could become hits? You would have needed to be alive and cognizant in the nineteen seventies to remember that. But trust me, in the sixties it wasn't an alien concept...at all.

The Sufaris only had one hit, but that hit is played in every tavern in every town on every Saturday night. And people get up and dance to it...The Frug or The Jerk or whatever variation of "dancing" they choose. I personally am a mean Jerk dancer.

Sorry for the Frankie and Annette intro, but it was the best video I could find:


Obviously, this only scratches the surface of 1966; like a phonograph needle scratching the hell out of my precious 45's.

There is more to come. This was mostly the best. Let's dig in the dirt to uncover the worst.











Friday, May 20, 2016

Merle ~ Who Says My Best Days Have Passed Me By?


Upon Merle's passing, I read virtually every writerly tribute -- I guess to find out if anyone "got it" -- got the importance of Merle to people like me, and, frankly, to see how wrong they got it. I'm cutting these guys some slack. They're probably tasked with summarizing the careers of disparate artists, from Paul Kantner to Prince, and who could know them all? Besides, those articles are written for the casual pop culture observant; the people who've maybe "heard of this guy", but don't really know what he's all about.

The thing is, though, don't go throwing around the "ten best" recordings of somebody unless you know what you're talking about, because that's a heavy burden.

I've already nailed down most of the best of Merle in my previous posts. But I'm no ideologue. I can be wrong. I can be shortsighted. After all, I grew up on Merle -- that's a completely different mindset from the guy who writes obituaries for the New York Times. So, I'm willing to bend, and I don't have to bend very far. The songs featured here are good; damn good, but you see, Merle was all about the good. It's a matter of whittling down a fifty-plus year career, and that's nigh impossible.

So, I'll stop prattling and just get to the music.

If We Make It Through December:




Tulare Dust:


Carolyn (with Glen Campbell, like it was meant to be done):


 Everybody's Had The Blues* (live, like I remember it):

*a personal favorite


If We're Not Back In Love By Monday:




Footlights (a perennial on the "best of" lists, but probably one of, sadly, my least favorite Merle songs):


I remember saying to my mom, when this song came on the radio, how much I loved it, and she said, "Really? I don't see what's so great about it." I was right, Mom. Sorry.

Misery and Gin:


Merle and Marty Stuart ~ Farmer's Blues:


I wondered where Merle had gone, and then, suddenly, there he was, with Willie:


Honestly, I could go on for miles. There are deep album cuts, cover songs (especially those of Lefty Frizzell), Stranger jams, nuggets that've currently escaped my mind. I've tucked them all safely away inside the creases of my memory even if I haven't included them here, in these four (?) Merle Haggard posts.

I'm still mourning his loss. I guess I always will. I had the chance to see Merle in concert a few times in recent years, but I refused. I stubbornly wanted to remember him on my terms. That was probably dunder-headed. Because now it's too late.

So, I'm going to let Merle end this with a paean to the life both of us longed for. Maybe I'll reach it someday. I know Merle has.


I guess, thank you. Thank you, Merle, for my musical life. And actually for saving my life. I don't know what my young existence would have been if fate hadn't hammered me. I do know I was miserable. Until I found you. That's a heavy burden, but I think you can handle it.

And when you play Misery and Gin for my mom, she might just change her opinion.