Ancient Blues Lines And Train References

Smokestack Lightnin’ was written by Chester Arthur Burnett who is better known as Howlin’ Wolf.  This song is timeless and evocative, it enthralls anyone who listen to it, as it is a distillation of the essence of the blues.  Wolf said the song was inspired by watching trains in the night, sitting out in the country and seeing the trains go by that ran on coal in those days, watching the sparks come out of the smokestack and that was the smokestack lightning.  Howlin’ Wolf recorded ‘Smokestack Lightning’ in Chicago in January 1956.  Longtime Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin is credited with the distinctive guitar line.  Howlin’ Wolf sang and played harmonica, backed by pianist Hosea Lee Kennard, guitarists Willie Johnson and Hubert Sumlin, bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Earl Phillips.  Guitarist Hubert Sumlin played with Howlin’ Wolf for over twenty years, from the time he joined the blues legend’s band in 1954 until Wolf’s death in 1976.

In 1956, ‘Smokestack Lightning’ reached number 11 in the Billboard R&B chart and it was Wolf’s single greatest recording in a career full of amazing recordings.  It had been a part of Wolf’s repertoire as far back as the early 1930s.  Its lyrics were inspired, in part, by Charlie Patton’s ‘Moon Going Down’ and the Mississippi Sheik’s ‘Stop and Listen Blues’.  Wolf had already recorded a version of it for RPM in 1951 as ‘Crying at Daybreak’.  Lyrically the song is a collection of short, clipped verses around the general themes of romantic betrayal and the need to catch a train and leave his mistreatment behind and thus it often has different lyrics when other groups cover it.

Over the years, “Smokestack Lightning” has been covered by numerous artists both in live performance and on recordings. Among these are artists as diverse as Muddy Waters, the Yardbirds, the Animals, George Thorogood, Van Morrison, Etta James, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Grateful Dead, John Lee Hooker, Bob Dylan, The Allman Brothers Band, The Who, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Manfred Mann, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones to name but a few.

‘Smokestack Lightning’ has also received numerous awards over the years.  In 1985, the song was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame in its ‘Classics of Blues Recordings Singles or Album Tracks’ category.  It was further honored by the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of lasting historical musical importance.  In 2004, it was ranked number 29 in Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”  And in 2009, ‘Smokestack Lightning’ received the highest recognition that any recording can receive from the United States government when it was selected for permanent preservation into the Library of Congress for the National Recording Registry.

This song starts out with a lone guitar setting the beat and feel of the song.  The rest sounds like there are two guitars playing, but Hubert Sumlin manages to play both the rhythm and lead guitar with this one classic riff that repeats all throughout the song with some tiny variations.  Charley Patton recorded the song, ‘Moon Going Down’ on May 28, 1930 and some of the lyrics are, “Lord, the smokestack is black and the bell it shine like, bell it shine like, bell it shine like gold. Aw the smokestack is black and the bell it shine like gold.”  The second verse of ‘Stop and Listen Blues’ by Mississippi Sheiks which was recorded in 1930 and it says, “Cryin’, smokestack lightning That bell that shine like gold”.  Howlin’ Wolf took some of this as he starts his song out with simular lyrics, “Ah oh, smokestack lightnin’ Shinin’, just like gold.”  Wolf howls at the end of each verse which works perfectly for this song.

Howlin’ Wolf is up on a hill one night and his attention is drawn to the gold embers coming out of an approaching train’s smokestack and he says, “Why don’t ya hear me cryin’?”, because he is sad that his woman is not with him.  He goes on to say, “Whoa oh, tell me, baby Where did ya, stay last night?”, as he has been hurt by her not coming back to him last night.  Now he is angry and confused and he is thinking about putting her on the next train outta here, so he says, “Whoa-oh, stop your train Let her, go for a ride.”  I imagine that it is also possible that he hopped on the train and hightailed it out of there as some alternate lyrics say, “Stop your train Let a poor boy ride.”  I guess that he sent her away or he left on this train, because he next says, “Whoa-oh, fare ya well Never see, a you no more.”  Wolf concludes by singing, “Whoa-oh, who been here baby since, I-I been gone, a little, bitty boy Girl, be on Whoo hoo”, which I think that this concerns him boasting about his male prowess like he is some kind of sex machine, making a statement that he is more of a man than the others that his girl has been with.

Ah oh, smokestack lightnin’
Shinin’, just like gold
Why don’t ya hear me cryin’?

Whoo hoo
Whoo hoo
Whoo

Whoa oh, tell me, baby
What’s the, matter with you?
Why don’t ya hear me cryin’?

Whoo hoo
Whoo hoo
Whoo

Whoa oh, tell me, baby
Where did ya, stay last night?
A-why don’t ya hear me cryin’?

Whoo hoo
Whoo hoo
Whoo

Whoa-oh, stop your train
Let her, go for a ride
Why don’t ya hear me cryin’?

Whoo hoo
Whoo hoo
Whoo

Whoa-oh, fare ya well
Never see, a you no more
A-why don’t ya hear me cryin’?

Whoo hoo
Whoo hoo
Whoo

Whoa-oh, who been here baby since,
I-I been gone, a little, bitty boy
Girl, be on

Whoo hoo
Whoo hoo
Whoo

Written for 1/20/19 Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday Theme where the prompt is “Crying/Sadness”.

Here We Go Again

Since nobody has kicked me out yet, I am still filling in as the guest host for SLS Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday.  Mary B who blogs at http://www.jinglejanglejungle.net has suggested the prompt of “Crying/Sadness” and crying is supposed to be a healthy human response, while sadness is useful for alerting us to how we need to treat ourselves, and also as to how we want to be treated by others.  I didn’t bother to look to find if there are enough songs that can work with this prompt, but I think that everyone should be able to find something to fit the theme.  Feel free to suggest future prompts.

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Without music life would be a mistake” and I tend to agree with him on this.  This SLS challenge is unique from most of the other writing challenges on WordPress as the Usual Suspects seem to show up every week, because of their love of music.  My biggest problem with being the host is the pingback problem, which reared it ugly head last week.  All of the pingbacks went through, but the WordPress Happiness Engineers say that I need to manually approve any pingback before it will show up on my post.  I am disappointed with this and if you want to get around this you can always paste your link in the comments section of this post, especially if you don’t want to wait on me.  I urge patience on your part as I will be continuously checking for pingback requests which I will approve immediately.

Here are the “rules”:

  • Post the lyrics to the song of your choice, whether it fits the theme or not.
  • Please try to include the songwriter(s) – it’s a good idea to give credit where credit is due and it’s honestly just a simple Google search.
  • Make sure you also credit the singer/band and provide a link to where you found the lyrics.
  • Link to the YouTube video, or pull it into your post so others can listen to the song.
  • Ping back to this post will eventually work, so please be patient.
  • Read at least one other person’s blog so we can all share new and fantastic music and create amazing new blogging friends in the process.
  • Have fun and enjoy the music

I will be writing about Howlin’ Wolf’s song Smokestack Lightnin’ today. The next three weeks are all sep up to give everyone more time to figure out what song they want to use.
January 27, 2019 – No
February 3, 2019 – Ocean/Sea/Lake/Bay
February 10, 2019 – River

Happiness Engineers

I told the Happiness Engineer today that I have taken over as a guest host of a popular writing challenge called Song Lyric Sunday here on WordPress and that I would like to have the pingbacks for these posts to go through without the need of my approval. Can you help me resolve this?

HE reply, sorry for keeping you waiting, it seems that there is no explicit way to auto-approve ping backs, although I see the you have already unchecked the “Comment must be manually approved” option in Settings
in particular at the bottom you may try disabling “Comment author must have a previously approved comment”

Another question by me, “Do the other bloggers that host challenges all have this problem?”

HE reply, in short I believe so because allowing any one to create an entry in your comment section is something that spammers and bad intentioned individuals can easily exploit

My Comment, “I like WordPress but I have never gotten any satisfactory help with any issues that I reported.

HE reply, sorry to hear that, we are here to help you in every way possible, sometimes though there are limitations that we impose to our products whose reason is not obvious in the beginning but that help protect our customers websites

I’ll go ahead and jump off for now, but feel free to pop back in if I can help further!

My ending, “I am more sorry than you are.”

A Month of Prompts

I hope this is helpful to everyone that is interested in Song Lyric Sunday.  I will release a post every Saturday evening around 10 PM Eastern Time and you will need to pingback to that post, but you can work on these prompts ahead of time if you desire.

January 20, 2019 – Crying/Sadness
January 27, 2019 – No
February 3, 2019 – Ocean/Sea/Lake/Bay
February 10, 2019 – River

I Cannot Share Your Laughter

The “Ship of Fools” concept has been around since Plato’s Republic, which was written back in 380 BC.  In Book VI, the philosophy uses it as an analogy to describe the instability of democracy, with a captain trying to navigate a ship full of mutinous sailors who think they can do the job better.  Socrates and Adeimantus are discussing the different models by which a government can rule wisely, and Socrates tells Adeimantus to imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better.  The sailors are quarreling with one another about the steering, everyone is of opinion that he has a right to steer, though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces anyone who says the contrary.

In Sebastian Brant’s 1494 popular satire Ship of Fools, the fools are disreputable and untrustworthy characters who like to wear comical pointed hats, depicted literally as jesters or clowns and they represent well-known or influential people in European church, various influential clerics, government judges, commerce industry or royalty of the era.  The fact that the book dared to confront powerful targets for their foolish or immoral ways probably explains its popularity with all levels of readers.  Ship Of Fools was a novel written by Katherine Anne Porter in 1962 and it became a movie in 1965, starring Vivien Leigh, Lee Marvin and George Segal.  This novel tells the tale of a group of disparate characters sailing from Mexico to Europe aboard a German passenger ship that try their hardest to make good decisions.  This book was a #1 best seller and it takes place on a German luxury cruiser heading across the Atlantic Ocean in the portentous 1930s, just as Hitler’s Nazi Party was beginning to threaten the weak democracy of the Weimar Republic.  The Doors recorded a song titled ‘Ship Of Fools’ on their 1970 Morrison Hotel album which was about an acid trip.  Other notable artists that made a song titled ‘Ship Of Fools’ are Bob Seger on his Night Moves album and Robert Plant on his Now and Zen album.

The Grateful Dead song ‘Ship of Fools’ is a slow ballad, and the lyrics tell a story of anger and defiance.  ‘Ship of Fools’ was written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia and first played on February 22, 1974, at  Winterland in San Francisco.  ‘Ship of Fools’ is the final track on the Grateful Dead’s 1974 Mars Hotel album.  A prospective crew member on the ship, confronts the captain “the strangest he could find” with a proposition.  Oddly Garcia was often referred to as Captain Trips.  This new guy on the crew might be on a fool’s errand, but he tells the captain that he would like to learn how to sink this ship, well whatever floats your boat.  This sailor feels like he is sailing on a cruel sea and he wants this ship of fools to sail away from him.  He no longer thinks that the captain should be in charge and he will not share his laughter on this ship of fools.  He appears to have a history with the captain as he says, “Saw your first ship sink and drown, from rockin’ of the boat, And all that could not sink or swim was just left there to float”, so he knows that the captain is no good as if he was he would have gone down with the ship.  He lets the captain know that he won’t leave him drifting, but since he is thirty years old, he should no longer be called a child.  The ship appears to be running short on supplies and he is thinking about warning the other sailors not “to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.”

Went to see the captain, strangest I could find,
Laid my proposition down, laid it on the line.
I won’t slave for beggar’s pay, likewise gold and jewels,
But I would slave to learn the way to sink your ship of fools.

Ship of fools on a cruel sea, ship of fools sail away from me.
It was later than I thought when I first believed you,
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

Saw your first ship sink and drown, from rockin’ of the boat,
And all that could not sink or swim was just left there to float.
I won’t leave you drifting down, but woh it makes me wild,
With thirty years upon my head to have you call me child.

Ship of fools on a cruel sea, ship of fools sail away from me.
It was later than I thought when I first believed you,
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

The bottles stand as empty, as they were filled before.
Time there was and plenty, but from that cup no more.
Though I could not caution all, I still might warn a few:
Don’t lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.

Ship of fools on a cruel sea, ship of fools sail away from me.
It was later than I thought, when I first believed you,
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

It was later than I thought when I first believed you,
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

Written for 1/13/19 Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday Theme where the prompt is “laugh/laughter/laughing”.

Get Well Helen

“Good Lovin’” is a song written by Rudy Clark and Arthur Resnick that was a number one hit single for the Young Rascals in 1966.  This song came out on the Good Lovin’ album and it charted #1.  It was originally recorded in 1965 by The Olympics, a novelty/doo-wop group who had hits with ‘Peanut Butter’, ‘Western Movies’ and ‘Hully Gully’.  The Olympics Good Lovin’  tune was a re-working of a song originally titled Lemme B. Good by a singer named Limmie Snell.  Clark and Resnick re-wrote the lyrics to the song, and changed the name, before The Olympics recorded it.  Felix Cavaliere of The Young Rascals was listening to a New York Soul station when he heard The Olympics version.  The Rascals liked it and played a sped-up version at their live performances and this song became their first hit.

The group was initially called The Rascals, but they changed their name to The Young Rascals because of potential legal action from a group called Harmonica Rascals.  After they hit the jackpot with Good Lovin’, they changed their name back to The Rascals.  The Grateful Dead also covered Good Lovin’.

1-2-3-
(Good lovin’ )
(Good lovin’ )
(Good lovin’ )

I was feelin’ so bad,
I asked my family doctor just what I had,
I said, “Doctor,
(Doctor )
Mr. M.D.,
(Doctor )
Now can you tell me, tell me, tell me,
What’s ailin’ me?”
(Doctor )

He said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
Yes, indeed, all you really need
(Is good lovin’)
Gimme that good, good lovin
(Good lovin’)
All I need is lovin’
(Good lovin’)
Good lovin’, baby.

Baby please, squeeze me tight (Squeeze me tight)
Now don’t you want your baby to feel alright? (Feel alright)
I said Baby (Baby) now it’s for sure (it’s for sure)
I got the fever, Baby, Baby, but you’ve got the cure
(You’ve got the cure)

I said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
Yes, indeed, all I really need
(Is good lovin’)
Gimme that good, good lovin
(Good lovin’)
All I need is lovin’
(Good lovin’)
Good lovin’, baby.

Written for 12/30/18 Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday Theme where the prompt is “doctor/health/medicine”.

Guest Host

I am honored to take over as the guest host for SLS Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday, while she is recovering. It is late, so let’s get to the prompt which is “doctor/health/medicine”.  I am not sure how this will work, but if you create a pingback to this post, I will read your blog.  Feel free to suggest future prompts.