Posts Tagged ‘Train metaphors’

Rockabilly Archaeology: Part Three.

April 4, 2013

To pilfer from an earlier post:

Train lyrics encompass all the most endearing themes central to great songs – rootlessness and Manifest Destiny, love, lust and romance, significant meetings and departures, outlaws and ladies (loosely termed), hobos and travel lust, fast trains, slow trains, last trains and every variant inbetween.
opening one
Trains play a metaphoric role in a mythic US landscape, and probably have bugger all connection to reality. But do they provide grist for the art of great song writing.
opening two
Wicki provides a list of song referencing trains HERE, and if you can’t add another dozen, you obviously grew up on diet of Queen, Oasis and rap and are therefore doomed to a future of self-harm and deserved suicide.
Now there are a lot of really dark songs, Long Black Veil and The Dark End of the Street being at the top of my list.

James Carr’s version with truly subline backing by the Muscle Shoals studio musicians.
We also have Hank Williams Travelling Man, which is surely an essay on his short and troubled life. And despite some negative reviews, I thoroughly recommend Chet Flippo’s semi-fictional biography Your Cheating Heart.

God, I fucking hate youtubes pre-song advertising.
Its time to finish this post: rain, birdsong and other distractions outside notwithstanding.
Recall that in a previous part of this series, I mentioned that musicians didn’t regard themselves as genre specific artists, and they hopped musical boundaries without considering the matter. Rock and roll, rockabilly, country, pop and gospel comfortably co-existed in most Southern musicians play lists.
Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio were perfect examples, and this link is by far the best available on the net.

JBalbun Burnette hailed from Memphis and was a contemporary of young Presley: they attended different high schools. A truly tremendous voice which covers a wide register. Not a velvety or as playful as Presleys or as thin as Chris Isaaks. And no slouch in the yelp and hiccuping department either. They might look like rubes in their early photos, but were cutting edge musicians in their day.

Its time to crank up the Stereo, although I’ve been sampling from a brilliant collection off the pc.
Train Kept a Rolling all Night Long covered by millions and written by Kay, Bradshaw and Mann in 1951.

High velocity rockabilly.

Well, we made a stop in Albuquerque
She musta thought
I was a real cool jerk
Got off the train, and put her hands up
Lookin’ so good, I couldn’t let her go
But I just couldn’t tell her so

I’m in heat, I’m in love
But I just couldn’t tell her

Honey Hush written by Joe Turner.

The killer sound of the bass line was due to a loose valve in the amplifier, a fact which befuddled numerous wannabe guitarists including Clapton. (See first link.)
Equally at home singing blues. Chains of Love every bit as good as Bobby Bland’s version.

And I leave you with Midnight Train which begins as a ballad before segueing into a rockabilly conclusion. At first I though his vocal delivery was rather naïve but after a lot of listens, decided he really nailed this narrative of pure despair.

I left my gal sad and lonely, left her standing in the rain
I went down to the railroad, I caught myself a midnight train
I beat my way into Texas, landed in a gambling town
I got myself into trouble, I shot the county sheriff down
Oh Lord, I shot the county sheriff down
They put the handcuffs on me, tied me with a ball and chain
They took me to El Paso, they tied me with a ball and chain
These prisonbars all around me, no-one to call my bail
My heart’s sad and so lonely, I want to get out of this jail
Oh Lord, I want to get out of this jail
The jury read the verdict, murder in the first degree
The judge said, take this prisoner to the penitentiary
They put the handcuffs on me, tied me with a ball and chain
I’d left my home forever and I’ll never see my gal again
Oh Lord, I’ll never see my gal again

Touch Me. Totally killer vocals. Also covered by The Cramps.

I was going to finish with a brief account of rockabilly’s transmigration to Japan and Finland, but that will have to await another day.