Joe Walsh – Rocky Mountain Way

The two songs today will involve the Rocky Mountains…by song title anyway. This song just flat out rocks. Joe Walsh includes a talk box on the guitar in the solo.

Joe Walsh left the James Gang just as they were building momentum, having scored hits with “Walk Away” and “Funk #49.” Splintering the band as they were on the verge of stardom didn’t go over well with Walsh’s bandmates or their record company, but Joe felt creatively limited in the 3-piece band and wanted out. Colorado put him near James Gang producer Bill Szymczyk, who continued to work with Walsh and produced this album.

When Joe Walsh moved to Colorado, he formed a band called Barnstorm, whose first, self-titled album came out in 1972. Their next album was The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get, contained this track. The song was co-written by the group: Rocke Grace (keyboards), Kenny Passarelli (bass), Joe Vitale (drums), and Walsh. The music was written before Walsh added the lyrics.

Joe Walsh: “I’m living in Colorado and I’m mowing the lawn. I look up and there’s the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and there’s snow on them in the summer. And it knocked me back because it was just beautiful. And I thought, ‘Well I have committed. I’m already in Colorado and it’s too late to regret the James Gang. The Rocky Mountain way is better than the way I had, because the music was better.’ I got the words. Bam!”

The song peaked at #23 in the Billboard 100 and #31 Canada in 1973.

This was one of the first songs to feature a talkbox, which allows a guitarist to make distorted vocalizations with his mouth. Peter Frampton is probably the most famous talkbox practitioner, and his use of the device is prominent on his famous 1976 album Frampton Comes Alive.




From Songfacts

After leaving his group the James Gang at the end of 1971, Joe Walsh moved from Cleveland to Boulder, Colorado, where he wrote this song, which celebrates the scenery and lifestyle of Colorado. In some ways, the song is a rocked-up version of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” which was released the previous year. Both songs use the famous Rocky Mountains as a focal point for the virtues of Colorado.

“Rocky Mountain Way” reflects Walsh’s range of emotions after making the big move. He explained in the book The Guitar Greats: “I got kind of fed up with feeling sorry for myself, and I wanted to justify and feel good about leaving the James Gang, relocating, going for it on a survival basis. I wanted to say ‘Hey, whatever this is, I’m positive and I’m proud’, and the words just kind of came out of feeling that way, rather than writing a song out of remorse. It was special then, and the words were special to me, because the words were like, ‘I’m goin’ for it, the heck with feeling sorry for this and that’, and it did turn out to be a special song for a lot of people. I think the attitude and the statement of that have a lot to do with it – it’s a positive song, and it’s basic rock’n’roll, which is what I really do.”

As for Barnstorm, they played up to their name and did over 300 gigs in 1973. The band broke up after the two albums, which have since been more commonly credited as Joe Walsh solo works.

Walsh is a big baseball fan, and this song has become associated with the game because of the lyrics “Casey’s at bat,” which is a reference to a famous baseball poem. When the Colorado Rockies baseball team formed in 1993, “Rocky Mountain Way” became a popular song at their stadium, Coors Field, where the song is played after a Rockies win.

Joe Walsh described writing the lyrics to this song during an interview with Howard Stern. Walsh explained he had the track recorded but had no ideas for lyrics. He had been living in Colorado after leaving the James Gang over creative differences with the direction of the music. He was mowing his lawn and looking at the Rocky Mountains and the lyrics came to him. He ran inside to write the lyrics but forgot to shut off the lawn mower. The mower ran into his neighbor’s yard and ruined the neighbor’s garden.

“It was a very expensive song to write,” Walsh said, implying he had to pay to repair the damage to the neighbor’s yard. He said the lyrics describe his anxiety about leaving the James Gang and his excitement about a solo career.

Rocky Mountain Way

Spent the last year
Rocky Mountain Way
Couldn’t get much higher
Out to pasture
Think it’s safe to say
Time to open fire

And we don’t need the ladies
Crying ’cause the story’s sad
’cause the Rocky Mountain Way
Is better than the way we had

Well he’s tellin’ us this
And he’s tellin’ us that
Changes it every day
Say’s it doesn’t matter
Bases are loaded and Casey’s at bat
Playin’ it play by play
Time to change the batter

And we don’t need the ladies
Crying ’cause the storie’s sad, uh huh
Rocky Moutain Way
Is better than the way we had
Hey, hey, hey, hey

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

25 thoughts on “Joe Walsh – Rocky Mountain Way”

  1. Joe Walsh borrowed the talked box he used on this song from Nashville steel guitar player Pete Drake. Pete Drake also played pedal steel on George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass. Peter Frampton also played guitar on the album. This is where Pete Drake introduced Peter Frampton to his talk box and Peter had a talk box built for himself right after that meeting.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Man, you’re really them – one epic rocker after the other. Joe Walsh is a great guitarist and I think one of the best things that happened to the Eagles.

    I also dig his music with James Gang. In fact, I’m listening to “Funk #49” as I’m writing this.

    Things have been pretty busy on the home front, so unfortunately, I’ve barely had time for blogging!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joe is so much fun. I got to see him with Ringo…he made a surprise visit on Ringo’s birthday.

      Since I’ve been home working I’ve had some time but next week I’ll be going back to the office so I’ll be slowing down a little to my normal one a day during the week.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was the first song I heard by Joe, or the first time I’d heard his name back then. An ok song, though I like a lot of his later ones better. Interesting story though, never gave it a whole lot of thought but had no idea what it was about or why a Rocky Mountain way was better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We played this song last year in the garage…love the movements in it…the simple walkup is cool…and yes I love the solo.


  4. Triumph does a pretty good version of this tune. I recall Mike Levine (Bassist for Triumph) at one point saying Joe Walsh always would that them for the royalty cheques whenever there paths would cross.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just listened to it… the right tone on guitar and he has a perfect voice for it. That is a good version. Joe seems like one of the nicest guys in rock.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Triumph makes that tune seem like there own and for the longest time, I thought it was a Triumph song. Than again I was young and goofy and didn’t know better. lol

        Liked by 1 person

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