Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The #iamnottrendy playlist - Emu201803f-aaaa

Perhaps Shawn Zehnder Rossi may be a tad confused about my Spotify playlist naming conventions, but the last four letters of my current playlist should be understandable.

You see, I ran across a meme that included a screaming cowboy, and I had to find who he was.

After a Google reverse search, I ran across a song that was really really popular last year, but I had never heard of it. The song was Kirin J Callinan's "Big Enough," and the screaming cowboy is Jimmy Barnes.

So I started a Spotify playlist with various country-themed thingies, some of which are actually country.

It includes, among other songs, the following:

Bob Dylan's and Johnny Cash's "interesting" duet on "Girl From the North Country"
The "epic western remix" of "Jolene" sung by Ellenyi
Caballero Reynaldo's cover of "A Forest"
A Jimmy Barnes song from the 1980s, "Driving Wheels"
The The's song "Heartland," with the (repeated) chorus "This is the 51st state of the USA"


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Present nostalgia - "Rocky Top" and "Fox on the Run"

Bluegrass music is an odd thing. In one sense, it reminds us of our past, of mountain music made before synthesizers and auto-tune. Yet in another sense, it is as modern as a Cracker Barrel.

Let me cite two examples that I am taking from a statement by the Southwest Bluegrass Association:

In the early 1970s “Fox on the Run” was among the most requested bluegrass songs. Along with “Rocky Top,” a bluegrass band could scarcely play a show without fans yelling for “Rocky Top” or “Fox on the Run.”

One may think that the songs were finally becoming popular with a wider audience, but in truth there was another reason why "Fox on the Run" and "Rocky Top" didn't achieve wide popularity until the early 1970s.

By James G. Howes, Attribution, Link

Louise Mandrell hinted at the reason in a TV show I saw many years ago. In the TV show, Mandrell accidentally traveled back in time, but didn't realize what had happened at first. She was surprised that the people around her had never heard of the song "Rocky Top."

Well, for such a situation to have taken place, Mandrell would have had to travel back in time all the way to...1966.

Yes, "Rocky Top" is a fairly recent song:

On August 28, 1967, songwriters Felice and Boudleaux Bryant checked into room 388 of the Gatlinburg Inn. The couple, known for such hits as Wake up little Susie, Bye Bye Love, and Love Hurts, were frequent guests of the inn and friends of it's owners, Rel and Wilma Maples....

The couple came to Gatlinburg in 1967 to work on an album for Archie Campbell.

"It was an album about golden memories or something along that line and they thought that was a little depressing and said 'let's go a little up tempo on something'," said Cross. "They sat down and they penned most of Rocky Top in about 10 minutes."

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

So it only took ten minutes to write an acknowledged bluegrass classic.

But what about that other bluegrass classic? Here's a promo for it.

At this point a few less-knowledgeable bluegrass fans might be a bit confused by all this English stuff. Well, the song was originally written by British songwriter Tony Hazzard and recorded by the band Manfred Mann, not to be confused with the band Manfred Mann's Earth Band, or with the person Manfred Mann. The band Manfred Mann emerged from the same scene that spawned other bluesy rock bands such as the Rolling Stones. "Fox on the Run" was the band's second-to-last single before its breakup.

By Photographer: A. Vente - Dutch TV Programme Fanclub. Recorded 27 May 1967, broadcast 2 June 1967, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

For the next part of the story, we need to concentrate on that magical word, "Somehow."

Somehow, the Manfred Mann pop version was heard by Bill Emerson...

Bill Emerson was not an English blues rocker, but an American banjo player who started playing the instrument in 1953. On July 4, 1957, Emerson and guitarist-vocalist Charlie Waller started a band that evolved into the Country Gentlemen. Within a couple of years, Emerson had left the Country Gentlemen. By the time he heard the Manfred Mann song, he was part of a duo with Cliff Waldren. They performed a very non-English version of the song.

But the Emerson and Waldren duo didn't last long, because Bill Emerson left to join his old band, the Country Gentlemen. And he brought a song with him.

So by that time the song had become a bluegrass classic. But there was still one significant re-recording to come - that of Tom T. Hall.

Oh...and there was one more version of "Fox on the Run."

In 1974, Sweet released another song called "Fox On The Run," which was an international hit. Tony Hazzard didn't appreciate the appropriation. "There's no copyright on song titles but some titles you just don't use," he told us. "Imagine if I wrote a song entitled 'Imagine' or 'Mr. Tambourine Man'!"