Some Friday Songs

When I sort the 72,000 tracks in the RealPlayer for “Friday,” the returns are not encouraging: I get twenty-two tracks. Two of them are set aside immediately: They’re performances of “Remedy” and “Willie McTell” by The Band during 1994 on the NBC show Friday Night Videos.

The other twenty tracks, however, provide an interesting mix, though I think we’ll pass by the theme from the television show Friday Night Lights by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden. So what we’ll do is sort the other nineteen tracks by their running time, set the cursor in the middle of the stack and find four tracks.

And we start with a churning, loping and somewhat dissonant boogie decorated by one of those odd lyrical excursions typical of Steely Dan: “Black Friday” from the 1975 album Katy Lied:

When Black Friday comes
I fly down to Muswellbrook
Gonna strike all the big red words
From my little black book

Gonna do just what I please
Gonna wear no socks and shoes
With nothing to do but feed
All the kangaroos

When Black Friday comes I’ll be on that hill
You know I will

I’m not an expert on Steely Dan, though I enjoy the group’s music almost any time I hear it and recognize the skill and talent on display. But the artistic visions of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen almost always leave me a little off-kilter, as if – to use an idea I think I’ve expressed at other times describing other artists – I’m suddenly living in a world of eighty-nine degree angles.

The first moments of the next track are oddly similar to “Black Friday,” but then the tune slides into the familiar jangly sound of “Friday On My Mind” by the Easybeats, a 1967 hit that peaked at No. 16 in the Billboard Hot 100. The tune has its own moments of dissonance as it tell the tale of a fellow enduring another week of work or school, looking for the weekend so he can get to the city and spend time with his gal: “She’s so pretty!”

So were the Easybeats a one-hit wonder? It depends on how you define the term. I’ve seen some chartheads define a one-hit wonder as a group that had only one record reach the Hot 100. I tend to think that’s a bit stringent, and use the qualifier of only one hit in the Top 40. Why discuss that here? Because the Easybeats had one other record in the Hot 100: a 1969 release titled “St. Louis” that spent one week at No. 100 and then dropped off the chart.

By my terms, then, the Easybeats – who hailed from Sydney, Australia – are definitely a one-hit wonder. Their hit is a record I’m not particularly fond of, but there it was at No. 16 during the spring of 1967.

Larry Jon Wilson, who died in 2010, was a Southern storyteller whose songs never seemed to hurry, even when they clipped right along. “Friday Night Fight At Al’s” fits into that style very well. I found it on an album titled Testifying: The Country Soul Revue, a 2004 sampler put out in the United Kingdom by the Casual Records label. (Among the other artists on the album were Tony Joe White, Bonnie Bramlett and Dan Penn.)

The track starts with Wilson’s laconic explanation that Al’s Beer Depot was a bar out near the bomb factory, a place where he went for a banquet one Friday when things went as they normally did at Al’s:

The Friday night fights at Al’s place: The situation was grim and I was forced to face
The extreme possibility of no one ever seein’ me alive again
When the night was over, chairs are busted, tables are flyin’
Get me out of here, Jesus, I’m afraid of dyin’
It’s the Friday night fights at Al’s place . . . We didn’t have no referee

Wilson’s body of work is a little thin: Four albums between 1975 and 1979, another in 2008, and a few other things here and there, two of which are included on Testifying. I like his stuff a lot.

Our fourth stop today brings us the Tulsa sound of the late J.J. Cale, a shuffling tune titled simply “Friday,” a track from a 1979 album titled, with equal simplicity, 5. I’ve loved Cale’s work since I came across his first album, Naturally, back in 1972, a year after it came out. There is a sameness to his work, yes, but it’s a comfortable sameness, if that makes any sense.

In any case, just lean back and listen to “Friday.”

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2 Responses to “Some Friday Songs”

  1. David C Armillei says:

    If you like Larry Jon Wilson, you should check out the documentary “Heartworn Highways” (assuming you haven’t). Wilson opens up the film by performing a great version of “Ohoopee River Bottomland” in the studio. The documentary–which is even better with DVD extras–was filmed in the mid-1970s and traces the then-nascent country music singer-songwriter scene by following, among others, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, and a very young Steve Earle, and concludes with a really touching Christmas Eve scene at Clark’s lakeside residence.

    It’s easily within my top 5 music films of all time.

  2. Yah Shure says:

    I loved “Friday On My Mind” and bought it shortly after hearing it for the first time. Little did I know that it would indirectly lead to one of the best times of my life. Back when radio stations ran Sunday night public affairs programs to comply with FCC requirements, ‘Hoitline’ filled that role between 11 and midnight on the Twin Cities’ KDWB. During the summer months of 1967, they supplemented that with an hour-long, behind-the-curtain look at the music side of the station, with ‘Music Hotline’ from 10 to 11. As a then-subscriber to the station’s ‘KDWB Beat’ publication, the program immediately became appointment listening.

    ‘Music Hotline’ featured various local music and record kingpins, in addition to frequent appearances by KDWB’s music director, with all hands addressing listener questions. One caller (whose name I wish I’d remembered) identified herself as a member of the staff of the University of Minnesota’s student-run radio station, WMMR, a theretofore unknown set of call letters to me. She wanted to know why it had taken months between the time WMMR had begun to play the Easybeats 45 and when KDWB finally added it.

    The answer, of course, had to do with the record having to reach a predetermined level of success before they’d consider airing it, among other sundry excuses. To a kid whose favorite records would sometimes disappear from the station’s airwaves and Big 6+30 survey after only a couple of weeks, the nuggets of knowledge gleaned from the short-lived program were quite simply the most important things ever. It was like getting an invite into the coolest of clubs, without first needing to earn the secret decoder ring, let alone save up the requisite number of box tops.

    Decades later – as in about three summers ago – the Music Director who preceded me at WMMR mentioned a song he’d heard on a drive across the vast expanses of the West during a 1976 summer vacation: Larry Jon Wilson’s “Think I Feel A Hitchhike Coming On.” Neither the artist nor title rang a bell, even though I would have still been reviewing the station’s incoming 45s at the time. But it wasn’t hard to unravel the mystery: CBS/Monument Records generally didn’t service college radio with county singles unless they thought there was pop potential. Their loss: it would have been a shoo-in if they’d sent a copy.

    J.J. Cale is like wearing the same comfy style of blue jeans for years: familiar, yet never a worn-out welcome. For caffeinated Cale, you need to seek out his original 1967 Liberty 45 of “After Midnight.”

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