Going Down

‘Going Down’ was written by Stax saxophonist and Ardent studios producer Don Nix and recorded by his band, Moloch in 1969.  This simple song is the blues, it is rock and it is the foundation of what would go on to become a blues standard by virtue of all the other copious musicians who covered it, basically because it has these fast chugging rifts making it perfect for any hard rock bands that were looking for a good blues song to cover back in the early days.  Their eponymous and only album was a triumph, but it failed to sell, prompting the band to split in 1971.  The album was released on a Stax subsidiary which made distribution a disaster, as the Stax distributed label got caught up in a CBS Records quagmire, so some of Ardent’s greatest albums, did not reach a wide audience. The discs played on the radio, but they didn’t sell because they were unavailable in stores. Rolling Stone magazine remained anything but neutral on  the Moloch album, slamming it by saying, “Moloch advertises they eat the dead; by listening to their music we believe they do… they play the ugliest rock around”.  Moloch did not play devil worship music and they have no connection to the Canaanite god who indulged in child sacrifice, as they emerged from the Memphis music scene.  Although Moloch was short-lived, their legendary record is something that you should not gloss over.

Moloch guitarist Lee Baker had played with the Memphis Blazers throughout the 60s, and he toured with the Mar-Keys.  He was friends with Don Nix and was often called ‘the greatest guitarist you’ve never heard of’.  Nix recruited Steve Spear (ex member of the Gentrys who had a hit in 1965 with their cover of Keep on Dancing) to play bass.  The rest of this young group were beginners and this includes singer Gene Wilkins, drummer Phil Durham (who may have been in a band called The Group and The Rapscallions, but I could not find any information to back this up) and organist Fred Nicholson.  Don Nix supported production, arrangements and a large part of the composition.  The band was a popular mainstay of the late ‘60s Memphis rock scene, because of their high-octane blend of blues, rock, and soul filtered through psychedelic influences. Moloch’s musicians tried to forge new ground with an old formula cranked up to the biggest and the baddest.  The album holds a minor place in blues rock history, as the first recording of what’s become a standard, ‘Going Down’, and this Southern rock anthem has since been recorded by Joe Walsh, Freddie King, Jeff Beck, Deep Purple, JJ Cale, Bryan Ferry, Pearl Jam, Gov’t Mule, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Who, and Led Zeppelin and a number of others.

Moloch was a lynchpin of the Memphis psychedelic scene of the late ’60s, being a combination of rock, hard blues, psychedelic acid-washed guitar solos, and blue eyed soul.  Their album ended up being a pretty fair representation of what Nix wanted them to do.  They went in the studio with no tunes, not even a whole band.  The process began with them running the tracks down, and making up songs, so ‘Going Down’ was put together in the studio working off of a line that Nix had, and they worked the rest out.  Moloch was influenced by Blue Cheer, Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Faces and countless other blues-influenced 60’s rock groups.

Don Nix said that he didn’t write ‘Going Down’, he said that he got drunk and made it up while he was living in an old apartment in Memphis.  He was sitting with his foot propped up in an open window in the summertime with no air conditioning, when he fell asleep he fell two stories out this window into a garbage bin.  It is a good thing that he was not fragile, as this fall may have killed him, but that’s when he wrote the lyrics to this song, “Got my big feet in the window, got my mind down on the ground.”  I guess it could have been a lot worse if he lived above a bakery, as then he might have gotten covered in cornmeal.

Leon Russell gave Don Nix his biggest break by hiring him to produce and write songs for Freddie King. Veteran musician, producer and writer Don Nix is one of the people linked to creating the Memphis Sound.  In 1961, Nix joined the Mar-Keys an American studio session band for Stax Records where he played baritone saxophone along with bass guitarist Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, guitarist Stephen Lee Cropper, trumpeter Wayne Jackson, tenor saxophonist Charles Packy Axton, drummer Terry Johnson, and Pianist and singer Jerry Lee ‘Smoochy’ Smith.  They had a smash hit with the song ‘Last Night’ in 1961 and several members went on to play with Booker T & the M.G.’s.

This song is so elementary and this made it easy for the lyrics to evolve every time it was covered by a different group.  The lyrics shown below are what I heard from the Moloch song, which I listened to several times, however I am not real sure about the word Clausiosco, as I probably am not hearing that correctly.  Other versions use Chattanooga and other places, so I guess it doesn’t really matter all that much.  I did find out that there was a Sister Irene who was an American nun that founded the New York Foundling Hospital in 1869.  She was known to take in children that were left at her front door, so this may fit the theme of why the song says, “Sleep on sister Irene’s door”.  I love this awesome version with Maggie Bell singing with Stone The Crows, but not everyone has the same palette for music.  I also included the Freddie King version as he was the one who made this song famous and after that you can listen to the Moloch song.

I’m goin’ down
Down down down down down
I’m going down
Down down down down down
Got my feet in the window,
Got my mind on the ground

Put me down
Close that box car door
Let me down

Down that box car door
Well I’m going to Clausiosco
Sleep on sister Irene’s door

I’m goin’ down
Down down down down down
I’m goin’ down
Down down down down down
Got my big feet in the window

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Theme, for FOWC with Fandango – Fragile, for September Writing Prompts – Covered in cornmeal, for Sheryl’s A New Daily Post Word Prompt – Palette, for Ragtag Community – Copious, for Scotts Daily Prompt – Neutral and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Gloss.

16 thoughts on “Going Down

    1. I really enjoyed writing about ‘Going Down’. I just listened to Peter Green with The Splinter Group and I found it to be more bluesy than rocking and it was good but I prefer rock. I also listened to JJ Cale and Leon Russel doing this song and that was better as it had a nice beat. What I like better than these two versions is Leslie West as he can make his guitar scream.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s