Posts Tagged ‘Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle’

Back To The Jukebox

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I think that every once in a while as I explore the Ultimate Jukebox, I’m just going to let the selections go on stage without an opening act.

A Six-Pack From The Ultimate Jukebox, No. 3
“Baby It’s You” by Smith, Dunhill 4206 [1969]
“I’ll Be Long Gone” by Boz Scaggs from Boz Scaggs [1969]
“All Right Now” by Free from Fire & Water [1970]
“Guilty” by Bonnie Raitt from Takin’ My Time [1973]
“Take Me Home” by Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle from the One From The Heart soundtrack [1982]
“Under the Milky Way” by the Church from Starfish [1988]

I’ve written before about Smith and “Baby It’s You,” and I know my blogging friend jb at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ has as well. So without digging into my Word files, I’m not sure whether a reference held in memory will be mine or his or maybe someone else’s. Either way, the record – a cover of the Shirelles’ 1962 hit – was a tasty and thick slice of organ-dominated pop-rock, laced with chunky guitar and topped with the sweet and gritty voice of Gayle McCormick. The record – pulled from the album A Group Called Smith – went to No. 5 in the autumn of 1969, the only hit for the Los Angeles-based band. The video I found shows a television performance on which, I believe, McCormick sings live to a canned background. Key lines: “It doesn’t matter what they say. I know I’m gonna love you any old way.”

For most people, I suppose, the highlight of Boz Scaggs’ self-titled 1969 album, his first solo work after his years with the Steve Miller Band, was the long blues number “Loan Me A Dime,” on which he, the Muscle Shoals crew and Duane Allman simmer for a long time and finally boil over. But every time I listen to Boz Scaggs, that astounding set of performances is challenged for the top spot by the record’s second track, “I’ll Be Long Gone,” which starts in a contemplative mood before shifting into its own up-tempo statement of purpose. Key lines: Good luck with your path/But it wasn’t built to last/Or we might take it differently.”

In an art form where macho postures abound – and they’ve done so in every generation, from the leers of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry onward – one of the more blatant macho statements was Free’s “All Right Now,” which came ripping out of radio speakers during the late summer and early autumn of 1970 on its way to No. 4.  Dave Marsh nails the record perfectly in The Heart of Rock & Soul when he calls it “Cock rock extraordinaire,” noting that “All Right Now” is “the apotheosis of the form, as unrelenting as a hard hat’s street corner come-ons.” And yes, the narrator’s approach to the young lady in question is brash and clumsy and self-involved. But you know she had to love the guitar hook and the chorus. Even if she did nothing else with the guy, she had to play air guitar and sing along with him. Or maybe not. Key lines: “She said ‘Love?’ Lord above, now you’re tryin’ to trick me in love.”

As I’ve noted before while writing about Bonnie Raitt’s cover of Randy Newman’s “Guilty,” the opening chords by pianist Bill Payne always make me slow down, close my eyes and travel in time. I first heard the song through the wall of the hostel room where I lived during half of my college year in Denmark, as one of the girls in Room 6 had the song on a mixtape someone had sent her from home. And in the many years since then, no matter where I am, the song places me for at least an instant in my room in the middle of a winter night with the muted sounds of “Guilty” seeping through the wall with its mix of sadness and resignation. I heard the song so frequently during my four-month stay at the hostel that Raitt’s recording, as I wrote once, “took on forever an aura of beer-soaked regrets and midnight grief.” That’s okay, though. We need to recall our grief and regrets from time to time. They are, after all, a large part of what has made us who we are today. And for me, as I would hope it does for all of us through time, the grief has eased its way to bittersweet, and the song triggers these days nothing more than a half-smile at how young we all were. And the recording – which includes among others Lowell George on slide guitar and New Orleans pillar Earl Palmer on drums – stands up well after thirty-seven years, too. Key line: “It takes a whole lot of medicine for me to pretend to be somebody else.”

I’ve never seen the Francis Ford Coppola film One From The Heart, a lack in my experience that will have to be remedied some day. But if the film is as good as the soundtrack that Tom Waits composed and then recorded with help from Crystal Gayle, it’s a hell of a film. I first became aware of “Take Me Home” from its use in a CBS Television drama, The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire, which had a seven-episode run in the autumn of 2003. At the end of one of the episodes, Mare Winningham sang the song to another of the cast members, spurring me to find out more about the song almost as soon as the show’s credits ran. I soon found Waits’ soundtrack and Gayle’s superb vocal on “Take Me Home” and then learned I needed to add the song to that list of tunes that can bring me to tears no matter what else is going on. Key lines: “Take me home, you silly boy/All the world’s not round without you.”

I imagine that the radio stations I listened to in Minot, North Dakota, during the spring and summer of 1988 likely played the Church’s “Under the Milky Way” at other times of the day, but when I hear the record’s moody jangle, it always makes me feel as if it’s sometime around eleven o’clock at night. I’m in my apartment on Minot’s north side, reading or petting a cat as the music brings me closer to ending another day in a season that was little more than a test of endurance. I imagine I heard the record a fair amount during that time, as it went to No. 24. And given that, it’s a pleasant surprise that I still like the record very much. Key lines: “Wish I knew what you were looking for/Might have known what you would find.”

(My thanks to Caesar Tjalbo for “Take Me Home.”)

– whiteray