Hey y’all — just wanted to say thanks for joining me on my Lynyrd Skynyrd odyssey this week! It was absolute pleasure, and certainly one of the coolest projects I’ve gotten to do as a writer. And of course a big thanks to Hendrik for creating this fantastic space to let people talk about the music…
Lynyrd Skynyrd - “Tuesday’s Gone”
It’s a dreary morning here in Lower Merion, the Philadelphia suburb I grew up in, and there’s a downpour outside too, so I figure why not get today off to a funky fresh start with my nomination for the saddest Lynyrd Skynyrd song, “Tuesday’s Gone.” Plus it’s Tuesday, so y’know.
This track was somewhat of an anomaly within the context of my own Skynyrd fandom: Always in my periphery when I first started listening to the band in high school — probably via classic rawk radio — but it was never my go-to cut (hell, I don’t think I even had it on my iPod). When I got to college I did that whole thing where I didn’t necessarily disown my high school tastes, but kinda pushed ‘em off to the side to make room for things like Animal Collective and Pavement. But at some point I got it in my head that I had to hear “Tuesday’s Gone” immediately — no idea how or why; power of music, I suppose — and it became more or less the only Lynyrd Skynyrd track I’d listen to over the next few years (give or take a “Free Bird,” “Simple Man” or “Sweet Home Alabama” when I came home and got behind the wheel of my high school ride/parents’ green Honda Civic).
There’s something particularly frail about “Tuesday’s Gone”: It seems to cut in after the band’s already played a few of the opening bars, the mellotron (added by producer Al Kooper) sighing over a simple acoustic progression and hi-hat clicks that duck out just as they get going. The chorus doesn’t deliver so much of a wallop as it just kinda exhausts itself over you — the weight of Ronnie Van Zant’s slender vocals revealing itself in increments ‘til by the final “My baby’s gone with the wind,” you’re just buried beneath it. The band surges back after that final chorus settles itself, Van Zant trying to write his blues as that train rides on; but even under the assured guidance of Allen Collins’ closing solo, Lynyrd Skynyrd lets “Tuesday’s Gone” waver just a bit because hope means nothing without a little hopelessness.
I still raining now, but just a little at least.
I spent pretty much all of November 25th, 2012 alone in my apartment. It was one of those days in general, though if I’m gonna defend my introverted tendencies, my roommates and friends weren’t back from the Thanksgiving holiday yet. So I got stoned and sat on the couch and probably watched Netflix, maybe read, got stoned-er, and definitely, definitely listened to Drive-By Truckers, the latest recommendation from my bro RJ, who’d instructed me to start with the songs “Marry Me” and “Let There Be Rock.” It was music I was basically predestined to love: Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and Jason Isbell told poignant, nuanced, often darkly funny stories about boozing, cruising, and losing that celebrated and interrogated their beloved South. And, well, you play me a band whose love of and dedication to the craft of monster riffs and seat-of-your-pants solos is so great it accomplishes the Herculean feat of making the same four chord rock song you’ve heard your entire life sound like the best rock song you’ve heard in your entire life, and I’m all in. Southern Rock Opera, DBT’s third LP, was all that over two discs, the first about a fledging rocker grappling with his isolated, uncertain, idiotic adolescence, the music heard across his high school parking lot, and heritage and hate in the South during desegregation. The second was the story of one of those bands heard ad nauseum across Hood’s high school parking lot, one he hated as a kid and came to love later in life, one that epitomized the “duality of the southern thing” he contemplated on disc one: Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Which is how I found myself stoned-er-er about fifteen minutes into November 26, 2012 gawking at Allen Collins, a towering skeleton in all red everything with the most tremendous frizzy mane in a band full of tremendous frizzy manes, launch into a solo befitting his sawtoothed Gibson Explorer as Steve Gaines, with his bushy billy goats beard and sunburst Strat, bopped towards him. The two share a quick glance then focus only on the imminent: Two down-beats, the rest of Skynyrd zip it, and a dual guitar screaming — in harmonics — comes across the sky. The thumps of Artimus Pyle’s drums beckon Ronnie Van Zant who re-emerges with a, “Well now, all right there missy — let me tell you a thing or two,” his arch Southern twang swinging upwards as the guitars begin a breezy descent. The kids packed in this field in Hertfordshire, England for the Knebworth Festival go nuts; fuck, I go nuts as “I Ain’t The One” comes to a bombastic, cymbal washed finish. Van Zant’s hands and chunks of the crowd rise to salute the band. This is song number two. It’s August 8, 1976 and ahead of Lynyrd Skynyrd is an hour and a half of striving towards similar precise moments of rock and roll grandeur again and again in the middle of one of England’s hottest, driest summers on record (so bad they appointed a Minister of Drought), and in front of hundreds of thousands kids probably wacked out on something or other and anxious to get to fest’s main event, The Rolling Stones. None of which bothered Skynyrd the slightest. How could it? They’d done plenty of time bar and club circuit, opened for a number of their rock heroes before, and last but not least they’d honed their chops in a small shack — tiiiin roof, rusted — smack in a swamp outside Jacksonville, Florida affectionately dubbed, The Hell House. Knebworth was a piece of cake.
The whole set is rather remarkable (and blessedly all on YouTube, but watch each song individually; the audio on the hour long video doesn’t sync), and warrants not just all the retrospective accolades from ex-hippies collected on various forums and websites, but also Pyle’s stone serious assessment in Freebird… The Movie: “We blew the Stones off the stage.” That show’s the stuff of rock legend—I mean, the entire Lynyrd Skynyrd story is the stuff of quintissential-to-the-point-of-cliche rock legend.
A bunch of boys from dead end Jacksonville who dropped out of Robert E. Lee High School (where they’d often run afoul with a particular gym teacher, Leonard Skinner, for wearing their hair too long) because I guess when you’re 16-going-nowhere-fast in 1964 and you and your buddies see The Rolling Stones on TV, pick up some guitars, start to cover the songs you hear on the radio, realize rock and roll’s only a few chords really — and holy shit, it’s as fun to play as it is to listen to — practice more, gig around town, maybe even tour a bit under a name honoring the aforementioned asshole gym teacher to the point where you start to get a feel for the stage and that thing that happens between you and the audience who need this music just as much as you, which is when it hits you that rock and roll can be wayyyy more than just a few chords… all that and I guess this notion starts to form, yeah, this band could be your life. No. This band has to be your life.
Thanks for the warm welcome, Hendrik! Too stoked to spend the next week talking about the one and only Lynyrd Skynyrd. Since I’m, er, still regaining my faculties after a pre-memorial day BBQ yesterday, here’s an excellent fan made video set to Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” that a friend sent me a few…
round one, the early favorites:
Daft Punk - “Get Lucky” (because obvi you will not be able to go to anywhere ever over the next at least 6 months, probably 2 years, without hearing that godsend of Nile Rodgers riff—notice how you can kinda make out the rhythmic pick clicks in the beginning, but in the final refrain its the smoothest thing in the world—which is something we should all be thankful for.)
Diarrhea Planet - “Lite Dream” (because if you don’t know, now you now.)
The-Dream - “IV Play” (because this probably won’t actually make it past any radio programmer, even though it should; and also cause nobody understands how to construct lush, lurching R&B pop like mr Terius Nash. that choral hook he wails around is brilliant, like its this rather monotonous, kinda somber melody that quivers a few half steps here and there under the weight of those harmonies, piled on top of each other like 60 satin and silk blankets on a heartshaped waterbed, which is what I imagine The-Dream sleeps on most nights.)
The Juan MacLean - “You Are My Destiny” (because I don’t know much about house music [yet; I’m doing my homework] but I know I can’t not get caught up in that plucked synth part that warbles up and down and washes around Nancy Whang’s dead-eyed coo and into the space left by that stellar drum programming.)
discovered this today: Sun Palace’s ‘Rude Movements’
towards the end of this Specter DJ set for Butter Side Up:
and that Sun Palace cut was like a blast from the past: its bassline was like one or two half step plucks from the “Cola Bottle Baby” sample Daft Punk used on “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” which my friend Taylor probably introduced me to back in the day. he also introduced me to Chuck Mangione’s groovetacular smooth jazz—played half for shits and giggles, half for the legit trips the man would take on his trumpet—which I thought “Rude Movements” also reminded me of… till Specter moved into what I’m pretty sure is the Dave Ford, Kenny Wellington and Breeze McKrieth (oh to have that name) remix of Light of the World’s “London Town”
bonus points for “Light of the World” having the Big Ben chimes riff.
Drive-By Truckers playing “Outfit” in Richmond in 2006. Jason Isbell’s his contribution to the world of parental advisory country songs, a sub-sub-topic (patient zero?) easily susceptible to preachy schmaltz though Isbell’s lyrics only cut—“I used to go out in a Mustang / a 302 Mach 1 in green / till me and your mama made you in the back / and I sold it to buy her a ring.” (even better with the live vocal tics, the notes he finds a half-step adjacent to those he hits on the CD.) suppose I just needed great country, not necessarily 3 college fiction courses, to teach me showing’s almost always better than telling.
also, quoth Patterson Hood: “it’s a good time, it’s good to be around doing that tour and stuff, going all over the country opening for the Black Crowes. but at the same time it’s 40 minutes really early in the day with a lot of people really sober in front of us coming in the door… it’s important to be able to rock in 40 minutes, but it’s fuuun to have all night.”
rock songs about rock music are a thing i’m really into.
hi. it’s nice to be here.