The Art of Love

In the 1950s, Wanda Jackson was a pioneering female rocker who recorded a number of classic singles and she enjoyed the mentoring of Elvis Presley who encouraged her to branch out into the fast-developing rockabilly genre, but none of her records became hits.  Wanda Jackson wasn’t afraid to step outside the prim confines of a woman’s place in pop and cross into rock and roll singing with wild, reckless abandon.  At age 73, Jackson mounted a comeback with the album The Party Ain’t Over (2011), which was produced by Jack White of the White Stripes, and she followed that with Unfinished Business (2012).  In 2019 Jackson announced that she was retiring from performing, citing “health and safety” issues, and it was later revealed that she had suffered a stroke the previous year.  Wanda Jackson was called the Queen of Rockabilly and she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.

Ovid the Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus wrote a guide on the art of seduction in his three-book series The Art of Love.  This playfully instructed women in the art of seduction and men in the skills essential for mastering the art of romantic conquest.  On Bob Dylan’s 32nd studio album Modern Times, which was released in 2006, he references this work by Ovid in his song ‘Thunder on the Mountain’.  Modern Times became Dylan’s first #1 album in the U.S. since Desire which he released 30 years earlier in 1976.  At age 65, Dylan became the oldest living person at the time to have an album enter the Billboard charts at #1.  The record didn’t last that long, as when Neil Diamond was 67 in 2008 his Home Before Dark album reached #1.  Modern Times was self-produced by Dylan under the pseudonym “Jack Frost”, and it received acclaim, but also sparked some debate over its uncredited use of choruses and arrangements from older songs, as well as many lyrical lines taken from the work of 19th-century poet Henry Timrod.

Dylan said that he remembered seeing Alicia Keys at the 2001 Grammy awards, when Keys was a five-times winner with her album Songs in A Minor and Dylan won Best Contemporary Folk Album with Love and Theft.  Dylan said that he was on the show with her, but he didn’t meet her.  Although he said to himself, “There’s nothing about that girl I don’t like.”  Keys was 39 years his junior and it appears that Dylan must have done some research on her discovering that she raised in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York.  Bob Dylan and Jack White struck up a friendship in 2007 and when Jack White produced Wanda Jackson’s 2011 album The Party Ain’t Over which peaked at #17 on Top Rock Albums.  White suggested that Jackson should record the Bob Dylan rockabilly song ‘Thunder on the Mountain’.  Jackson replaced Dylan’s Alicia Keys reference with a more appropriate Jerry Lee Lewis and his hometown of Ferriday, Louisiana.

Thunder on the mountain, fires on the moon
There’s a ruckus in the alley and the sun will be here soon
Today’s the day, gonna grab my trombone and blow
Well, there’s hot stuff here and it’s everywhere I go

I was thinkin’ ‘bout Alicia Keys, couldn’t keep from crying
When she was born in Hell’s Kitchen, I was living down the line
I’m wondering where in the world Alicia Keys could be
I been looking for her even clear through Tennessee

Feel like my soul is beginning to expand
Look into my heart and you will sort of understand
You brought me here, now you’re trying to run me away
The writing’s on the wall, come read it, come see what it say

Thunder on the mountain, rolling like a drum
Gonna sleep over there, that’s where the music coming from
I don’t need any guide, I already know the way
Remember this, I’m your servant both night and day

The pistols are poppin’ and the power is down
I’d like to try somethin’ but I’m so far from town
The sun keeps shinin’ and the North Wind keeps picking up speed
Gonna forget about myself for a while, gonna go out and see what others need

I’ve been sitting down studying the art of love
I think it will fit me like a glove
I want some real good woman to do just what I say
Everybody got to wonder what’s the matter with this cruel world today

Thunder on the mountain rolling to the ground
Gonna get up in the morning walk the hard road down
Some sweet day I’ll stand beside my king
I wouldn’t betray your love or any other thing

Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I’ll recruit my army from the orphanages
I been to St. Herman’s church and I’ve said my religious vows
I’ve sucked the milk out of a thousand cows

I got the pork chops, she got the pie
She ain’t no angel and neither am I
Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes
I’ll say this, I don’t give a damn about your dreams

Thunder on the mountain heavy as can be
Mean old twister bearing down on me
All the ladies of Washington scrambling to get out of town
Looks like something bad gonna happen, better roll your airplane down

Everybody’s going and I want to go too
Don’t wanna take a chance with somebody new
I did all I could and I did it right there and then
I’ve already confessed, no need to confess again

Gonna make a lot of money, gonna go up north
I’ll plant and I’ll harvest what the earth brings forth
The hammer’s on the table, the pitchfork’s on the shelf
For the love of God, you ought to take pity on yourself

Family Friendly

John Fogerty released a new CD at the end of 2020 which began as informal, lockdown-inspired jams and turned into a family album.  The Covid-19 production was composed with a band made up of his three youngest children, 28-year-old Shane, Tyler who is 27, and the youngest Kelsy at 18.  Shane and Tyler play in a band of their own, Hearty Har, and Kelsy is a college freshman who began playing guitar during her last years in high school.  Fogerty’s Factory is a nod, in both its title and on its cover, to the 50th anniversary of Cosmo’s FactoryThe idea for this record came from his wife and manager Julie Fogerty who thought that this music could be healing and useful as an antidote to the pandemic that everyone was experiencing.  They don’t have a drummer, but Shane has developed a bass style that’s somewhat percussive and Kelsy played some snare drum.  John tried to have fun, while quarantined at Northern California home by recording music with his kids.  The idea for this post came from choosingmyperspective.

Inextricably Tied to the Road

In mid-March of 1970, the Grateful Dead set off on tour, accompanied for the first time by Hunter, who had concluded that the band needed a road song, and that he needed to see the road to write the song.  Hunter, Garcia, Lesh, and Weir sat around a pool in Florida during this road trip and Hunter pulled out his almost finished ‘Truckin’’ lyrics which he’d been working on for months, inspired by their bust in New Orleans.  Their guitars were within grabbing distance, so Garcia, Lesh, and Weir set music to this song in about a half-hour.  The band was scheduled to play several shows in Florida, but some of the dates changed, leaving them time to sit around and write, rather than coming and going to and from various venues.  The Grateful Dead were supposed to perform two shows at Pirate’s World, in Dania, FL, just North of Miami, but somehow, they got combined into one show on March 24, 1970.  The band was able to finish writing most of ‘Truckin’’ while sitting by the pool at the motel that they were staying in for these Pirates World shows.  They had a free afternoon, which made it possible for them to work on the final verses of ‘Truckin’’ and it was most likely finished on 3/23/70.

The Grateful Dead hit the road again after their Pirate’s World show as they were scheduled to play one show sometime between Friday-Sunday, March 27, 28 or 29, 1970 at the Winter’s End Festival, in Miami, FL and this is why they came to Florida in the first place.  Robert Hunter said that the lyrics, “Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me” came from Phil.  It took Hunter a couple of months to write these lyrics starting off in San Francisco and finishing it up in Florida and he was amazed that it only took the guys about half an hour to put all the music together.  In ‘Truckin’’, the band sings about getting “Busted, down on Bourbon Street”, which just happened less than two months earlier.  When they sing, “Dallas, got a soft machine, Houston, too close to New Orleans”, their February schedule shows that they just played Dallas on Feb 20, well it was actually in nearby Fort Worth and they were in Houston on Feb 22 just the month before.  And as for “Truckin’, up to Buffalo”, they had just played in Buffalo less than a week before they wrote this song.  Workingman’s Dead was recorded in February of 1970 and released on June 14, 1970, so ‘Truckin’’ had to wait for American Beauty, which was recorded between August and September of 1970 and released in November.  ‘Truckin’’ became inextricably tied to, the Grateful Dead’s experience as a touring band, becoming an autobiographical song, with the lyrics being reflections on real events that happened out on the road.

The first few months of 1970 were tumultuous for the Grateful Dead.  They had been all over the country, involved in a New Orleans drug bust on January 31, their organ player Tom Constanten had parted ways with the band by mutual agreement, they found out that their manager absconded with a great deal of their money and they had to fire him, they hired Rock Scully as their new road manager and recorded a successful album, which became #27 on the Billboard album chart, marking the first time they’d cracked the Top Forty.  By the 8th of March, they had already played 34 shows.  The jamming part of ‘Truckin’’ had its roots in the ‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’ blues riff song which was first recorded by gospel blues artist Blind Willie Johnson in 1927.  This song is about a man that is trying to stay ahead of the evil which is pursuing him and it is clear that he will be doomed, unless he uses his abilities to learn biblical teachings.  The band played this song a couple of times in 1970, but they didn’t play it again until fall ’72, when the ‘Nobody’s’ jam became a pretty standard follower to the ‘Truckin’’ jam, sometimes with lyrics, sometimes not.  Led Zeppelin included this song on their 1976 Presence album.  There is also a Chuck Berry ‘School Days’ influence in this song.

Truckin’ was originally a Harlem dance step in the ‘20s and ‘30s, that was referred to in blues songs like Blind Boy Fuller’s ‘Truckin’ My Blues Away’ that features the lyrics, “Keep on truckin’ mama, truckin’ my blues away.”  Hot Tuna later rechristened this song in 1972 as ‘Keep on Truckin’ Mama’ on their album Burgers.)   The Mills Blue Rhythm Band recorded a jazz foxtrot called Truckin’ in 1935, with the lyrics “All over town you’ll see them truckin’ along…everybody’s truckin’.”  The American cartoonist and musician Robert Crumb was inspired by this old blues song to draw his comic “Keep On Truckin’”, which was published in the first issue of Zap Comix in 1968.  The cartoon consists of an assortment of men, leaning back while strutting their stuff confidently forward and this spawned the catchphrase “Keep on Truckin’”, that was picked up by the hippie generation.  Hunter may refer to Crumb’s big-footed men in the line “keep truckin’ like the doo-dah man” (though he later said, “Oh, that’s just from the Stephen Foster song ‘Camptown Races’, that goes “Camptown ladies sing dis song, Doo-dah! doo-dah!”

Hunter said that the verse about sweet Jane where it goes, “What in the world ever became of Sweet Jane?  She lost her sparkle, you know she isn’t the same”, was lifted from a 1948 toothpaste commercial and this portion of the lyrics was written as a way of poking fun at 1940s radio commercials.  It is kind of sad that Millicent never got kissed, because she wasn’t using Pepsodent.
Poor Millicent, poor Millicent,
She never used Pepsodent
Her smile grew dim
And she lost her vim
So folks don’t be like Millicent
Use Pepsodent!

Let There Be Songs to Fill the Air

The Grateful Dead song ‘Ripple’ is a welcome reminder that better days are ahead of us and that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and eventually this Covis-19 coronavirus will be over and the joy of music will, once again, fill the air.  In celebration of the American Beauty (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) album, the Grateful Dead have released a new music video for ‘Ripple’ which was animated by Actuality Films.  The video shows a table of tarot cards which launches the viewer into a mystical world.  Throughout the video, the protagonist, The Fool wanders through the spiritual space, The World, aided by The Star, The Moon, and The Sun.  As The Fool journeys through this otherworldly experience, he meets characters such as The Devil, The Magician, and The Empress, who guide him along.  According to a press release, “the video also conceals a myriad of Easter eggs drawn from Grateful Dead lyrics and lore.”

Garcia constructed the pure and humble melody for ‘Ripple’ that matched Hunter’s lyrics when they were in Canada on the 1970 Festival Express train trip.  One morning the train stopped and Jerry sat on the tracks in the sunrise, and put the finishing touches to this tune.  The original studio version of ‘Ripple’ featured a static Alice In Wonderland theme.  If you would like to learn more about this song, you can read my old post here.

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home

Another Grateful Dead Keyboardist Gone

With profound sadness, I want to report that the Grateful Dead family lost a true pioneer this week, as Howard Wales died today, Tuesday, December 8th, 2020 at the age of 77.  Howard Wales played on American Beauty, organ on ‘Candyman’, and ‘Truckin’’ and piano on ‘Brokedown Palace’.  Howard had done session work with James Brown, the Four Tops, Lonnie Mack, Ronnie Hawkins, Freddie King, The Coasters and others.  Jerry once claimed that “Howard was so incredible, and we were just hanging on for dear life.  For some reason, Howard enjoyed playing with us, but we were just keeping up.  Howard was so outside.  For both of us that was a wonderful experience… Playing with Howard did more for my ears than anybody I ever played with because he was so extended and so different.  His approach was all extensions and very keyboardistic; not guitaristic.”

Towards the tail end of the ‘60s, Garcia was introduced to a Hammond B3 player by the name of Howard Wales, who held jam sessions every Monday night at the Matrix on Fillmore Street in San Francisco.  Jerry started coming down more regularly to play along, and these ad hoc gatherings resulted in what would eventually become the Jerry Garcia Band.  Drummer Bill Vitt and bassist John Kahn along with Howard and Jerry made a recording from one of the nights in 1970 at the Matrix which was released in October 1998 as the Garcia/Wales album, Side Trips, Volume One.  In 1971 the studio album entitled Hooteroll? Was made which became a joint effort of experimental jazz that rose as a beacon of Garcia’s studio prowess and abilities outside the Dead.  At the time, Warner Brothers grew tired of the Grateful Dead, so Garcia released a side project titled Hooteroll? with keyboardist Howard Wales on another label.  Garcia continued to play with Wales through around January 1972. After Pigpen passed away, Wales tried out to be a member of the Grateful Dead but his style didn’t fit the group.

It’s All About the

In their 1963 single ‘Surfin’ Bird’, the surf-rock garage band The Trashmen sang:
“A well a don’t you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word!
A well a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word.”

The song was inspired by two contemporary songs by the doo-wop group The Rivingtons, those being ‘Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow’ and ‘Bird is the Word’.  The bird refers to a dance craze in the 1960s.  To do the bird you face your partner.  Place your feet together with knees slightly bent, and your body slightly forward, and your arms (become your wings) stretched out horizontally with your elbows bent.  Flap your wings while you are pushing your hands down and your elbows up at the same time, then do this in reverse.  Meanwhile you raise your heels alternately and in rapid motion, then you occasionally hop forward (girls hop backwards while you are going forward) and then this is done in reverse.  Clap your hands, kick your right foot out with your heel touching the floor while you are pivoting your left foot a quarter turn to the left, all the time keeping your wings flapping.  Repeat this three times, then return to your original direction.  (Girls do same, but kick their left foot, pivot their right foot and do their quarter turn to the right.  Hey, nobody ever said that this dance was easy!

The Minneapolis group known as The Trashmen noticed that these two songs sounded alike, so they mashed them together in a live performance.  A DJ at the show brought them into the studio to record the mashup under the title ‘Surfin’ Bird’.  The Rivingtons sued the Trashmen for plagiarism and now they are credited as the writers of this song.  While The Trashmen’s inspiration for ‘Surfin’ Bird’ is well-documented, the exact origin and meaning of the saying bird is the word is less clear.  Bird has carried many slang connotations throughout its history, from “prostitute” to “the middle finger”.  In the context of the song, “the word” meant the best, something that is cool, or hip, and later on this phrase evolved into meaning, “I really agree with what you just said”.  “Bird is the word” may characterize something that is good, cool, or new, but to me, it always makes me think about turkey.

The Rivingtons formed in the early 60s in Los Angeles, California, and this doo-wop group is mostly known for these two hits.  The group consisted of lead vocalist Carl White, Al Frazier, Sonny Harris and Rocky Wilson Jnr all of whom had previously worked as backing vocalists on recordings by Paul Anka, Duane Eddy and Thurston Harris, as the Sharps.  The song ‘Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow’ is composed of primarily of nonsense syllables and it features a deep bass voice which is accompanied by the rest of the group’s divine vocal harmonies.  The phrase “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” reportedly came to Wilson while he was in jail, following a fight a fellow inmate supposedly whispered this in his ear.  This song reached #48 in 1962 and it was later covered by the Beach Boys.

The Trashmen were made up of lead guitarist Tony Andreason, guitarist and vocalist Dan Winslow, bassist Bob Reed and drummer Steve Wahrer.  The Trashmen’s ‘Surfin’ Bird’ peaked at #4 on the Billboard charts, later inspiring fun or ironic covers by popular performers from The Ramones to Pee-wee Herman.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, don’t eat too much turkey and try to stay safe.

I Took the Deadhead Quiz

Supposedly there are all sorts of levels of being a Deadhead, and some people will call themselves Deadheads because they wear a tie-dye tee shirt and go to a show or two.  The Grateful Dead have not been a band for 25 years now, so who are these people to judge me?   Being a Deadhead is about appreciating the music and it should have nothing to do with twirling instead of dancing, or living in a van, or sometimes someone else’s van.  I was rated a part-time Deadhead by the survey and they told me that I never really lived the lifestyle full time, but I thought that most of the questions were stupid.

Do you twirl when you dance?
Yeah!
Sometimes
I don’t think so.
What? No.

How many Dead Shows have you gone to?
Over 100
20-100
1-20
0

Do you have a song list in your wallet right now?
Yep
No, but I used to.
No, I have never done that.
I don’t know what you are talking about.

What is your favorite Dead song?
“Dire Wolf”
“Dark Star”
“Shakedown Street”
“Truckin'”

Ever go to a show and ask for a miracle?
All the time
Sometimes
No, I always had tickets.
What?

Have you ever sold grilled cheese sandwiches at a show to make money?
Sure, gotta get by somehow.
Once or twice.
No, I always had money.
Umm. No.

Ever sell anything else at a show to make money?
What are you, a cop?
Who wants to know?
No, but I have bought some stuff like that.
No way.

Is Trey a better guitarist than Jerry?
I am going to pretend you didn’t say that.
No way
Maybe
Who?

How into balloons are you?
Totally into them!
I used to be.
Not at all.
Balloons? You mean at kids’ parties?

Do you mind sleeping on the couch of someone you don’t know?
No, it is actually kind of fun.
It is a little uncomfortable.
That doesn’t sound fun.
That sounds awful.

Have you ever gone on tour?
More than once.
Yes, once
No
A tour of what?

Do you like punk music?
No way man.
Not really.
It is okay.
I love it!

What would you do at a Dead Concert if someone was in your seat?
Seats? I don’t want a seat.
It wouldn’t bother me.
I would ask them politely to leave.
I would ask security to deal with it.

Do you like patchouli?
I love that stuff!
It is pretty cool.
Not really.
I don’t know. What is it?

Did you used to buy a lot of blank tapes?
Tons.
Quite a few.
No, I have never done that.
Why would I do that?

Have you ever hitchhiked?
Sure, I have done that a lot.
Sometimes.
Maybe once.
No, that is not safe.

Do you say “kind” a lot?
All the time.
I used to.
Not really.
Nope.

Have you ever used “?” as your occupation on a form.
Yeah, all the time.
I have before.
No, I have always worked or gone to school.
Why would I do that?

How excited do you get when “Alligator” gets played?
So excited!
Pretty excited.
Ehh, that isn’t my favorite.
I don’t know it.

Does your car have a ton of Dead stickers on it?
I don’t have a car.
Yeah, all sorts.
It has a few.
No.

Have you ever called in sick to go to a Dead Show?
No, but I have quit my job.
Yes, more than once.
No, but I thought of it.
No way.

What do you do when the bus comes by?
Get on man!
See if they can give me a ride.
I am not sure.
I don’t need a bus, I have a car.

How often do you wear tie-dye?
All the time.
Often.
Only during shows.
Never.

Do you like veggie burritos?
Love them!
They are pretty good.
They are okay.
Not at all.

Have you ever told someone about “The Deadhead way?”
Of course.
I think I have.
I don’t think so.
I have no idea what you are talking about.

Do you like it when Bob sings?
Yeah, he is awesome.
Yeah, but Jerry is better.
Not really.
Who is Bob?

Do you miss Pigpen?
Yeah man, he was awesome.
Not so much.
I don’t really remember him.
You mean the character from “Peanuts”?

Has it been a long strange trip?
Totally.
Sometimes it seems that way.
Not so much.
Has what been a long strange trip?

How much product do you use in your hair?
I have never used product.
I rarely use it.
A fair amount.
I use a ton.

Do you think long hair looks good on people?
Yeah, it looks awesome.
It looks pretty cool.
It depends on the person.
Not at all.

I ran across this cool video with Tom Davis and Jerry Garcia in the kitchen for “Cooking with Jerry,” from the Grateful Dead’s Ticket to New Year’s DVD.

Another video surfaced, a segment with Mickey dressed as Spock and Jerry as Santa.

An Instrumental Instrumental

‘Raunchy’ was an instrumental song composed by Bill Justis and Sid Manker in 1957 and produced by Sam Phillips.  This wild, primitive instrumental was originally titled ‘Backwoods’, but Phillips renamed the tune ‘Raunchy’, teenage slang for dirty or messy.  In 1998, the single by Bill Justis And His Orchestra was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in the Rock & Roll genre.  ‘Raunchy’ is one of the first rock songs to use the “twangy” lead guitar effect, which was later developed by others and became common for several years following this song.  In the mid-50s, great guitar innovators like Duane Eddy known as the Sultan of Twang started playing lead riffs drenched in tremolo and echo in the lower registers of the guitar, creating the bass-y sound that since then has become synonymous with “twang”.  Duane Eddy used his vibrato bar while plucking his open bottom string to get this twang sound.

Harrison knew McCartney for about a year, even though he was a few weeks shy of his 15th birthday.  The two were students at the Liverpool Institute and they frequently took the same bus to and from school and a friendship blossomed, and they began jamming together.  The Quarry Men were named after the Quarry Bank High School where the band was formed three years earlier and when they were looking to bring in a third guitarist, McCartney suggested his friend.  In 1958, George Harrison performed ‘Raunchy’ for John Lennon and Paul McCartney on the top deck of a bus in Liverpool, and it was so note-perfect that Lennon decided, despite earlier reservations about Harrison’s age, to let him into his band the Quarrymen, which later became the Beatles

In 1959, the Garcia family moved to Cazadero, a tiny town in the redwoods eighty miles north of San Francisco and Jerry Garcia started attending Analy High School in Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California.  Analy had a band called the Chords, which Jerry joined and their material was largely 1940s big-band tunes and they played at youth canteens, and high school dances.  In 1959, he showed an ability to play convincing rock and roll on the Chords’ occasional contemporary tunes.  The band even won a contest and got to record the song ‘Raunchy’.

‘Raunchy’ was the birth of the first Rock ‘n’ Roll instrumental song.  Combining a tenor sax with a lower-register guitar turned out to be a very successful idea.  In 1957, this blend gave Bill Justis a #2 record with ‘Raunchy’, featuring Sid Manker’s guitar along with Justis’ sax, but what made ‘Raunchy’ so unique was Manker’s guitar, as he forged the song’s distinctive riff not from the traditional middle strings but from the bass strings, creating a cavernous, resonant sound further buffered by studio echo.  The single proved Sun’s best-selling instrumental release ever, staying in the pop Top 40 for 14 weeks.  Justis and Manaker concocted the song in Justis’ home while making fun of Rock n’ Roll, convinced that they too could do it well if only they tried.  Bill Justis was older than most teenage Rock fans, and had little interested in Rock as a musical style.  However, he soon realized that Rock’s basic and simple sound was actually harder to achieve than he first thought.  The instrumental wave started with rock and roll and ended, in America, with The Beatles and the British Invasion.

From Innocence to Jerry Garcia

In 1995, the year that Jerry Garcia died, Squeeze the British rock band recorded ‘Electric Trains’ on their eleventh album, Ridiculous.  ‘Electric Trains’ was released as a single and it peaked at #44 in the UK Singles Chart.  Two versions of the single were released, each with entirely different B-sides and later Chris Difford recorded a stripped-down version of the song titled ‘Playing With Electric Trains’ on his 2002 solo album I Didn’t Get Where I Am.  Squeeze came to prominence in the United Kingdom during the New Wave period of the late 1970s and continued recording successfully in the 1980s and 1990s.  They are known in the UK for their hit songs ‘Cool for Cats’, ‘Up the Junction’, ‘Tempted’, ‘Labelled With Love’, ‘Black Coffee In Bed’, ‘Another Nail in My Heart’, ‘Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)’ and ‘Hourglass’.  They were not as commercially successful in the U.S., but they did have American chart hits with ‘Tempted’, ‘Hourglass’ and ‘853-5937’.  All of Squeeze’s hits were written by band members Chris Difford who wrote the lyrics and Glenn Tilbrook who wrote the music.  They were hailed as “the heirs to Lennon and McCartney’s throne”, because of their classic 1965 pre-psychedelic Beatles-like sound that produced catchy songs during their peak of popularity in the early 1980s.

‘Electric Trains’ is about a boy that grows up from a childhood that was filled with fun and games and he enjoyed playing with electric trains.  He gets turned on to music as he enters puberty.  He likes girls and starts having sex and then he forms his own band.  His music becomes popular, but I am not exactly sure what he is saying in the end of this song when he mentions the Grateful Dead.

When I was crowned a mummy’s boy by friends I didn’t like
I made a meal of trips to school upon my father’s bike
I used to sit between his legs, perched on a piece of wood
If it ever rained on us, I’d slip beneath his hood
And at home the radio was on
From Julie Andrews to Jerry Garcia
Life was all fun and games
I was out of my head and underneath my bed
Playing with electric trains

At home the stereo was on
My head was filled with rock
I played a willow cricket bat guitar
And soloed round the clock
My records stacked up in a pile
Collected from the charts
And Top of the Pops

Kneeling with torchlight shining
Before me in my bed
My eyeballs stuck in readers wives
Pubic hairs proudly counted everyday
Manhood took me slowly
Out into the milky way

I chased the girls and made them cry
My hair grew down my back
The passing of my teenage years
Were spent down in the sack
I played guitar and formed a band
I puked up all night long

As people came to sit and stare
While I raced through my songs
The sound of music passed by me
Just like the Grateful Dead

Totally Free

In 1980, Christopher Cross had a hit with ‘Ride Like The Wind’, and in 1981 Frank Zappa parodied the song as ‘Teenage Wind’.  Arthur Barrow is a multi-instrumental musician, that played bass guitar for Frank Zappa and later he worked with Joe Cocker, Diana Ross, Billy Idol, The Motels, and many others.  Barrow went to high school with Chris Geppard, aka Christopher Cross and when he heard Chris’s song on the radio, he told Frank about it and Frank told him that he could write a song like this in 5 minutes and this song is the result.  Frank Zappa recorded ‘Teenage Wind’ on his album You Are What You Is and another version of this song appears on You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, vol. 4, but this does not contain any references to the Grateful Dead. 

Frank’s music is an acquired taste, but he has always been unique.  Frank didn’t drink or take drugs and he wrote impossibly complex music that had no real form or structure, but this was how he expressed his artistic freedom and he ended up becoming one of music’s most eloquently passionate opponents of censorship.  The thing that I like most about this song is that it is about enjoying freedom without taking on the burden of responsibility.  The teenaged character in this song wants to go to a Grateful Dead concert, sniff glue, and get ripped while listening to Jerry’s guitar solo.  The teen also mentions going to see a show of 200 Motels, which is a 1971 surreal musical film was written and directed by Frank Zappa and Tony Palmer.  This musical is a tale of life on the road mixed with performances by the Mothers and the Royal Symphony Orchestra.  Ringo Starr played ‘Larry The Dwarf’ (dressed as Zappa), Keith Moon was ‘the Hot Nun’, but critics were distinctly underwhelmed by this film.

It’s a miserable Friday night
I’m so lonely
And nobody’ll give me a ride
To the grateful dead concert…oh rats!

I got to be free
Free as the wind
Free is the way
I got to be

Maybe I’m lost
Maybe I sinned
I got to be
Totally free

Our parents don’t love us
Our teachers they say
Things that are boring
So we’re running away
And we will be free
And people will see
That when we are free
That’s the way we should be

Nothing left to do but get out the ‘ol
Glue
(sniff it good now…)

Our parents don’t love us
Our teachers they say
Things that are boring
So we’re running away

And we will be free
And people will see
That when we are free
That’s the way we should be
(we must be free!)
The glue! the glue! I can’t find the glue!
(we must be free as the wind)
If I was at the concert now, I’d be ripped!
(we were free when we were born)
I could tighten my headband for an extra rush
During jerry’s guitar solo
Then I could go to a midnite show of 200 motels!
(we were born free, but, now we are not free anymore!)
“opal, you hot little bitch!”
“you can take this pin n’ hang it in yer ass!”
“you ain’t the devil!”
“where’s my waitress? “
But we wanna be free
An’ were gonna be free

Yes, we want to be free and we’re gonna be free
… did you know that
Free is when you don’t have to
Pay for nothing
Or do nothing
We want to be free
Free as the wind

Free is when you don’t have to
Pay for nothing
Or do nothing
We want to be free
Free as the wind

Free is when you don’t have to
Pay for nothing
Or do nothing
We want to be free
Free as the wind

Free is when you don’t have to
Pay for nothing
Or do nothing
We want to be free
Free as the wind