Friday, July 11, 2008


Listen to GASOLINE ALLEY BRED by The Hollies.
Listen to CHIMES OF FREEDOM by The Byrds.

Jason dropping in.

I've been tossing and turning this week's selection. After tinkering with The Damned, Nico, Murray Head and MC 900 Ft Jesus, I settled on The The. But I had 3 songs of theirs and I really wanted to force it to 2 - which I couldn't do.

In the end, this week's theme settled it for me. Bill is doing "best Beatles covers" and kicked off with one of my favourite Beatles tunes - This Boy (and let's just say that the only time it is acceptable to go into a bathroom together with your brother is when you both have guitars in hand and a song in your throat). I'm writing this on Tuesday so I'll be interested to see how the rest of the week shapes out but, for my money, the best Beatles cover is Nina Simone's "Here Comes The Sun" (either that or the entire "Let It Be" album by Laibach). Yes, Nina's version isn't as wonderfully different as, say, Stevie Wonder's "We Can Work It Out", but "Sun" is simply a better song.

Now, rather than posting a Beatles cover (linking to one doesn't count), I've gone for two songs from that era. Gasoline Alley Bred was originally a single-only release and was written by Cook & Greenaway of 60s pop group the Kestrels and songwriter Tony Macaulay.

One of my favourite Hollies tracks, it tells of a couple with big dreams , but who fail to rise above their station. Gasoline Alley is a comic strip that started in the Chicago Tribune in 1918 and is still serialised in papers to this day. What marks the strip is that the characters aged in real-time (main character Walt's wife, Phyllis, "died" in 2004 aged 105). That ageing of the characters is concordant with the two characters in this song.

The lyrics are straight and simple but the double-time strumming and soaring harmonies lift those words to become the musical metaphor for the ageing of the protagonists:

I know that we could have made it
We had ideas in our heads
And I wish somehow we could have saved it
But we're Gasoline Alley bred
Yet the years haven't really been wasted
And I know it in my head
We did good for the life that we've tasted
'Cause we're Gasoline Alley, Gasoline Alley bred
Interestingly, the single came out in 1970 - and yet I would have sworn that it's Graham Nash's voice in the 2nd verse (the one starting: "I'm a-gonna heat me some water") - but Nash left in '68. If its not Nash, who is it*?

Speaking of Nash, he left The Hollies to join David Crosby and Stephen Stills in their self-titled supergroup (hard to believe these guys failed their audition with the Beatles' Apple Records - there's that Beatles riff again!). And its Bill's second post of the week that pulled "Chimes of Freedom" off the 'pod.

I seem to remember CS&N being the first act to perform on Letterman when he returned to air after 9/11. The song was "Find The Cost of Freedom" and, as haunting as that anti-war song is, its not my favourite of "their's" (and I'm including every band that CS&N were involved in with the term "theirs"). In fact, "Chimes" isn't even theirs either - written as it was by Bob Dylan. And if Bill were to extend this week's riff to "Best Bob Dylan covers", the Byrds would feature thrice.
Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far off corner flashed
And the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
This song has been described as a "near-perfect protest song".

I can not disagree.

*PS Bill and I worked it out a day after I wrote this- its Terry Sylvester - who actually replaced Graham Nash in The Hollies.

Photo: DUBLIN, 2002. Taken by Jason Bryant.



uncle billy said...

Nice capper to a great week of posts, Jason. I am interested in your pic, I assume it has reference to the potato famine?

Jason said...

Thank you sir. It is indeed the potato famine memorial. There's one figure in the pic that doesn't belong though......

uncle billy said...

Not you....?