Bruce Springsteen – Johnny Bye Bye

This is one B side that I have listened to more than the A-side.

I was playing in a band at a Summer Festival in the 90s. This song was on the setlist combined with Bruce’s Cadillac Ranch went over well. The subject matter is dark but truthful.

The song is credited to Chuck Berry and Bruce because Bruce rewrote the Berry song Bye Bye Johnny to fit his story. Chuck’s song follows the same character heard in Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Johnny is now a grown man who boards a bus to start his life.

Bruce’s version is about Elvis Presley who died a little earlier. Bruce was a big fan of Elvis but saw what fame and isolation did to him.  After the glory had left…the lifestyle caught up with Elvis with tragic results. The song was released as a B side to “I’m On Fire” in 1985. I’m On Fire was the 4th single released from Born In The USA. Johnny Bye Bye  It was recorded in April 1982 during the “Electric Nebraska” sessions. That was when the band tried to recreate the Nebraska acoustic demos but they could not capture what Bruce wanted.

Springsteen performed this several times live during the River and Born in the USA tours. It is a haunting song to listen to. The keywords are the last lines of the song…”You didn’t have to die, You didn’t have to die.”

Bruce Springsteen: “The type of fame Elvis had . . . the pressure of it, the isolation that it seems to require, has gotta be really painful”

Chuck Berry’s original

“Johnny Bye-Bye”

Well she drew out all her money from the Southern Trust
And put her little boy on the Greyhound Bus
Leaving Memphis with a guitar in his hand
With a one-way ticket to the promised land
Hey little girl with the red dress on
There’s a party tonight down in Memphis town
I’ll be going down there if you need a ride
The man on the radio says Elvis Presley’s died We drove to Memphis, the sky was hard and black
Up over the ridge came a white Cadillac
They’d drawn out all his money and they laid him in the back
A woman cried from the roadside “Ah he’s gone, he’s gone”
They found him slumped up against the drain
With a whole lot of trouble running through his veins
Bye-bye Johnny
Johnny bye-bye
You didn’t have to die
You didn’t have to die

Carl Perkins – Blue Suede Shoes

Well it’s one for the money, two for the show
Three to get ready, now go cat go

This song could be the definition of rock and roll.  One of the many great Sun records that were released. Carl Perkins is a guitar hero to me with his rockabilly style that he never lost. I see why George Harrison and a generation was such a fan of the man. This song is up there with Johnny B Good as a Rock and Roll standard.

This song was written by Carl and it soon became a rock and roll anthem. This is another song that by law…you have to know if you are in a rock band. It’s probably better known by a singer from Memphis…named Elvis. I always favored this version…it has Carl playing guitar and that is all I need.

Carl recorded this in Memphis in 1955 for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. As he was driving to make his first national appearance to promote it on the Perry Como Show, he got into an accident that seriously injured him and killed his brother.  He later said he was 85 miles away from being the first rockabilly on national television.

Perkins never fully recovered, either emotionally or career-wise. With Perkins unable to touring and promote it, Elvis’ cover version became a massive hit. Presley’s copy was done at RCA studios in Nashville. Perkins did have some hits after this but nothing like Blue Suede Shoes. Interestingly enough…Elvis’s version only made it to #20 in the pop charts.

This single was released in 1956. The B side was Honey Don’t. The single peaked at #2 in the US Charts and #1 in the Country charts.

I always wondered about blue suede shoes and what was so special about them. Blue suede shoes were a luxury item in the South…you would only wear them on a special night out. . You had to be careful with them though, since suede isn’t easy to clean.

Perkins never owned a pair, but Johnny Cash told him a story about someone who did. Cash told Perkins a story from his days serving in the Air Force in Germany. Cash’s sergeant…C.V. White. He would wear his military best when he was allowed off base, and at one point said to Cash, “don’t step on my blue suede shoes.” The shoes were really just Air Force-issued black, but white would say, Tonight they’re blue suede!

The story Perkins told is that later on, he was playing at a high school sorority dance when he came across a guy who wasn’t paying much attention to his date, but kept telling everyone not to stop on his “suedes,” meaning his blues suede shoes. At 3 a.m. that night, Perkins woke up and wrote the lyrics based on what happened that night and the story he heard from Cash. He couldn’t find any paper, so he wrote it on a potato sack.

Perkins based the beginning of this song on a nursery rhyme One For The Money: “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go.”

Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, came up with the idea of changing the line “Go, man, go” to “Go, cat, go.” He thought the change would make it seem like less of a country song and more of a rocker…it worked!

From Songfacts

Sam Phillips discovered Elvis Presley but sold his contract to RCA for $35,000. The money helped Phillips finance this and other records by artists like Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison, but Elvis became The King. Elvis recorded this later in 1956. His version hit US #20 and UK #9.

This was the only Top 40 hit for Perkins on the pop charts, but his influence reaches much further. He was extremely influential to other artists, including Elvis, The Beatles, and Johnny Cash. Perkins was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

The lyrics describe some of the things that Perkins would prefer over getting his shoes scuffed, and the list includes some derelict behavior: stepping on his face, stealing his car, burning down his house and drinking his liquor. Some in the Sinatra-loving older generation were horrified, and used the song to back their case that rock ‘n’ roll was the Devil’s music.

This was the first song to hit the US Pop, Country, and R&B charts at the same time. Released on January 1, 1956, the song made a slow climb up the charts, appearing on all three in May, which is when it reached its peak of #2 on the Pop charts.

In Perkins’ original version of this song, there are two deliberate beats after each of the first two lines: “One for the money… bomp, bomp; two for the show… bomp, bomp.” The Elvis version eliminates the pause between the lines and speeds it up considerably.

Dave Edmunds, who later toured with Perkins, tells a story about recording the song with the rock legend for a segment to air on The South Bank Show, a UK program. According to Edmunds, Perkins played the intro without the beats between lines, insisting that when he recorded it, that was a mistake. Edmunds began pleading with him to do it as he did on that record, but then realized the absurdity of explaining to Carl Perkins how to play “Blue Suede Shoes.”

In later appearances, Perkins did play the song in line with his original recording, often with Edmunds by his side. One of his last appearances was with Edmunds performing the song on The Jay Leno Show in 1997 (Perkins died the next year).

The B-side of the single was “Honey Don’t,” which was covered by The Beatles.

This song was a family affair: Perkins’ brother Jay played rhythm guitar on the track, and his other brother Clayton played bass (W.S. “Fluke” Holland was Perkins’ drummer). Jay died from a brain tumor in 1957, and Clayton took his own life in 1974.

The charting versions of this song in America were by:

Carl Perkins – #2, 1956
Elvis Presley – #20, 1956
Boyd Bennett – #63, 1956
Johnny Rivers – #38, 1973

Pat Boone, Conway Twitty, The Dave Clark Five and Merle Haggard are among the many to record it. A version by Buddy Holly surfaced in 1964 on an album of outtakes called Showcase.

The “better not step on my shoes” trope found its way back to the zeitgeist when Spike Lee included a scene in his 1989 movie Do The Right Thing where a character gets very upset when someone steps on his Air Jordan sneakers.

Perkins, backed by Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats, recorded a new version of this song in 1985 for the soundtrack of the movie Porky’s Revenge! The soundtrack was produced by Dave Edmunds, who also got Willie Nelson, Jeff Beck and George Harrison to record songs for it, leading to a gaping disparity in quality between the film and the soundtrack.

Later in the year, Edmunds spearheaded the “Carl Perkins and Friends” concert special, recorded October 21 in London and aired January 1, 1986 on Cinemax. Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Rosanne Cash were among the “friends.”

The Count performed this song on an episode of Sesame Street. It became a counting exercise (one, two, Blue Suede Shoes).

Blue Suede Shoes

Well it’s one for the money, two for the show
Three to get ready, now go cat go
But don’t you, step on my blue suede shoes
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

But you can knock me down, step in my face
Slander my name all over the place
And do anything that you want to do
But uh uh honey lay off of my shoes
And don’t you step on my blue suede shoes
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

Oh let’s go cat!

But you can burn my house, steal my car
Drink my liquor from an old fruit jar
Do anything that you want to do
But uh uh honey lay off of them shoes
And don’t you, step on my blue suede shoes
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

Rock!

Well it’s one for the money, two for the show
Three to get ready, now go cat go
But don’t you, step on my blue suede shoes
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

Well it’s blue, blue, blue suede shoes
Blue, blue, blue suede shoes yeah
Blue, blue, blue suede shoes baby
Blue, blue, blue suede shoes
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

Kinks – A Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy

When I was 12, I was in a Dime Store in my small town (long since gone…another WalMart casualty) walking by the Mynah Bird all of us kids talked to in 1979…looked down at the record rack and I saw this record by the Kinks. When I first saw it I thought it was the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy I’d been hearing on the radio…by Bad Company.

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the record and liked it more. I had a Kinks greatest hits album and knew some about them but this record got me into them heavily.

This song peaked at #30 in the Billboard 100 in 1978. Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy was on the Misfits album and it peaked at #40 on the Billboard Album charts in 1978.

Inspired by the death of Elvis Presley and the departures of bassist Andy Pyle and pianist John Gosling from The Kinks, Ray writes about whether rock and roll is something mature adults should do.

From Songfacts

Kinks leader Ray Davies wrote this song, calling it a “Method acting songwriting job.”

While he was writing the song in 1977, he learned that Elvis Presley had died, which influenced the lyric. He was staying in New York at the time, and when he looked out his window late at night, he saw a single light on in one of the buildings. Davies imagined that light being the apartment of an ardent Elvis fan, which became the character Dan the Fan in the song.

The Kinks were falling apart around this time; guitarist Dave Davies wanted to stop touring, and keyboard player John Gosling and bass player Andy Pyle had decided that Misfits would be their last album with the group. Ray Davies explained in Rolling Stone: “The song was almost a homage to them; if you listen to the lyrics, it’s about someone leaving the band because they’ve given up the cause, and the two brothers will find a way through this.”

The line, “The King is dead, rock is done,” is a reference to Elvis.
The lyrics go on to describe a man named Dan living in Davies’ block who is a huge fan of The Kinks. Whenever he feels unhappy, Dan loses himself in their music, “living in a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy.”

By 1978 The Kinks may have been selling out Madison Square Garden, but they weren’t altogether happy. “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” details Ray Davies and his brother Dave considering breaking up the band. “The song is about two guys,” Ray told Q Magazine. “Shall we call it a day?”

Released as the first single from Misfits, the track was The Kinks’ most successful single in the US since their 1970 top ten hit “Lola.”

A Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy

Hello you, hello me
Hello people we used to be
Isn’t it strange, we never changed
We’ve been through it all, yet we’re still the same

And I know, it’s a miracle we still go
For all we know, we might still have a way to go

Hello me, hello you
You say you want out, want to start anew
Throw in your hand, break up the band
Start a new life, be a new man

But for all we know, we might still have a way to go
Before you go, there’s something you ought to know

There’s a guy in my block, he lives for rock
He plays records day and night

And when he feels down he puts some rock ‘n’ roll on 
And it makes him feel alright

And when he feels the world is closing in
He turns his stereo way up high

He just spends his life living in a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy
He just spends his life living on the edge of reality
He just spends his life in a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy

He just spends his life living in a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy
He just spends his life living on the edge of reality
He just spends his life in a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy

He just spends his life living in a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy
Look at me, look at you
You say we’ve got nothing left to prove
The King is dead, rock is done
You might be through, but I’ve just begun

I don’t know, I feel free and I won’t let go
Before you go, there’s something you ought to know

Dan is a fan and he lives for our music 
It’s the only thing that gets him by
He’s watched us grow and he’s seen all our shows
He’s seen us low and he’s seen us high

Oh, but you and me keep thinking
That the world’s just passing us by

Don’t want to spend my life living in a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy
Don’t want to spend my life living on the edge of reality
Don’t want to waste my life hiding away any more

Don’t want to spend my life living in a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy

My Memories of 1977

In 1977 I turned 10 years old. It was the first year I wanted to know what was going on in the world. I started to watch Walter Cronkite reporting the world news. Keywords I remember were Sadat, Middle East, Son of Sam, Concorde, and Inflation. Local news would be Chris Clark on channel 5 an affiliate of CBS…keywords locally… Snow, Ray Blanton (the name would be more popular the next year…in a bad way), and Larry Schmittou…who would bring Nashville minor league baseball the following year with the “Sounds” a Reds farm team.

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I missed around 3 weeks of school because of it being either closed or the bus would not run down our rural road because of snow…sledding and exploring time! In Middle Tn… 1 inch of snow will shut down a city.

I remember Star Wars hit the theaters with lines around the corners. I didn’t see it the month it was released but soon afterward. It was everywhere and the talk of the school. We had never seen anything like it before.

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I remember Queen releasing News of the World. A friend of mine brought the album to school and we studied every inch of the cover (by Frank Kelly Freas), a giant robot picking up the bodies of the band. We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions played non-stop on the radio. This is when I started to explore other bands that weren’t named The Beatles.

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The TV mini-series Roots was huge and historic.

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I was watching Gilligans Island and it was interrupted by sad news. Elvis Presley was dead at 42 years old. My mom and other grown-ups around were really upset. I knew his songs and it was sad but I didn’t understand everyone’s reactions for someone they didn’t know. Three years later when I was 13 I understood perfectly clear when John Lennon was murdered. Three days after Elvis died Groucho Marx passed away…In October Bing Crosby passed away.

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I paid attention to the inauguration of Jimmy Carter as President in January. I would hear about peanuts, teeth and his brother Billy for the rest of the year…and about one of those keywords again…inflation.

I remember the Son of Sam killings. In August of that year, David Berkowitz was finally apprehended. He killed six people and wounded seven others. I also remember the blackouts in New York in July…

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The Concorde was all over the news that year. To a 10-year-old in 1977, it looked like something out of a sci-fi movie.

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In March of 1977, I started to follow baseball. I’m not from California but my Dad always rooted for the Dodgers and it was passed down to me. I read from a young age about Babe Ruth, Christy Matheson, and the older players… but this was the first year I followed modern baseball from start to finish. Cey, Lopes, Garvey, Russell, Yeager, Dusty Baker, Reggie Smith, Don Sutton, Tommy John…I loved that team. I still can imitate the batting stance of all of the starters. Ron Cey was my hero and I played 3rd base in Little League because of him.

Our insurance salesman would come to our house every now and then and he knew I was a Dodger fan. He said he went to games in LA and would bring back something for me… I believed him totally. My mom told me not to get my hopes up as he was busy and might forget… A few weeks later…there he was with a Dodger 1977 pennant in his hand to give me…I still have it. I couldn’t believe the pennant in my hand came from the mythical Dodger Stadium where my heroes played.

They had four players with 30 or more home runs that year…Cey, Garvey, Smith, and Baker. They made it to the World Series but broke my heart. They played the Yankees and Reggie Jackson (it still hurts to type his name) hit three home runs in the sixth and deciding game to beat my Dodgers. It took a while to get over that…well I’m still writing about it 41 years later…but it’s always next year.

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I’ll close it out on Matchbox and Hot Wheels…I had a huge collection that I carried to friends houses to trade and race.

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If only life was that simple again…