Sunday, May 18, 2008

Your History is not History, or My Favorite Year

Blame Petty.

By time David Crosby and Chris Hillman were gone, those in the know had given up on the Byrds. It was just Jim/Roger McGuinn running on fumes. So, when Muddy Waters at the end of Hepburn Hall my freshman year at Middlebury purchased "Untitled", I laughed on the inside. Hadn’t he gotten the memo? But there was this one song that emanated from his room, "Chestnut Mare"… And then the reviews started to come in, saying the album was a return to form. Then, Clarence White, the superlative new guitarist, was cut down by an automobile after a gig and Roger McGuinn didn’t get another slice of fame until he participated in Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review. Is that where he met Jacques Levy?

No, in this case, the influence went in reverse. Roger met Jacques first. Or at least used him first. Jacques wrote the lyrics for "Chestnut Mare" and…"Lover Of The Bayou".

I only found this out the other day, when I fired up Petty’s cover. Not that I knew it was a cover at first. I was entranced by that classic guitar figure. The performance was almost garage rock. I was getting in the groove. Had Petty come back? Then, when they reached the line: "I’m a lover of the bayou", I realized I’d heard this before.

Minor research told me it had been done by the Byrds. But WHEN?

The first white act I remember mentioning the bayou was John Fogerty, singing about being born on the bayou (and that’s my favorite Creedence track… "And I can remember the fourth of July, runnin’ through the backwood bare"… Fucking record SOUNDS like it was cut on the bayou!) I didn’t remember Roger McGuinn singing about the bayou… And to do it after Fogerty seemed kind of lame…
This, says Bob Lefsetz.

Just so there's no doubt, he looked up late Byrds because he loved Mudcrutch. I want Mudcrutch because I like the Byrds. No. I accept the Byrds. I really like Clarence White, and he went hardcore electric with the Byrds. If he had joined the Stones, I'd have seven Rolling Stones CDs instead of Byrds CDs. Well, I have some of those anyway. Exile on Main Street is a great album.

I have a conception of 1969, musically. It involves the Stones and Jimi and the Byrds and Creedence. I know that's only part of it. Even within rock, I'm missing the Doors and Janis. I've heard the Doors; I won't go so far as to say all of it, but I'm sure that anything I missed isn't too significant. I could do more with Janis. This was a high point for Simon and Garfunkel. The Grateful Dead were just getting heard outside of Frisco. And that's just when we're discussing hip music.

My kids love I Love The 80s and such. While elements come up, the 80s they talk about on those shows isn't the 80s I experienced. Like 1984, when many people I knew left middle school wearing long hair and Sammy Hagar shirts and started their freshman year with much much shorter hair and bright red Black Flag shirts that said Slip It In. It was at least two years until I was similarly hip to Black Flag, and by then it was too late.

Bob has a 70s that he believes Petty shares, where the Byrds were Roger McGuinn and the Backing Band, where they were a joke, except for certain tunes that bubbled up. I suppose everyone has their own years. I can tell you that in my 1992, I did not know anybody who didn't own Inhale Pink and Exhale Blue by Billy McLachlan and Hollywood Town Hall by the Jayhawks. And that's the year I read the Uncle Tupelo interview in Option where they said in high school they weren't friends with anyone who wasn't into Black Flag.

Black Flag was part of Jeff Tweedy's 80s, too. Probably the same show.

But clearly by Anodyne someone had played 'em Sweetheart and maybe Untitled....

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