Favorite Lines from Songs Part 2

I did Part 1 over a year ago and it was a fun post. I’ve been meaning to do this again. I remembered some of the lyrics suggested by my friends hanspostcard and allthingsthriller on the last post…I have added those to list. Thanks to both of you.

I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back, And started walkin toward a coffee colored Cadillac… Chuck Berry

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Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose, And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free Janis Joplin/Kris Kristofferson

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And I need you more than want you, And I want you for all time Jimmy Webb

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Doesn’t have a point of view / Knows not where he’s going to / Isn’t he a bit like you and me…The Beatles

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Met myself a coming county welfare line, I was feeling strung out, Hung out on the line…Creedence Clearwater Revival

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And you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above…Bruce Springsteen

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He’d end up blowing all his wages for the week / All for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek…Kinks

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Well it’s too late, tonight, To drag the past out into the light, We’re one, but we’re not the same, We get to carry each other, Carry each other…U2

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You can blow out a candle but you can’t blow out a firePeter Gabriel

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Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see…The Beatles

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Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola, C-O-L-A Cola…Kinks

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It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart…Bob Dylan
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A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see oneThe Band

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And the sign said, The words of the prophets, are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls… Simon and Garfunkel

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I lit up from Reno, I was trailed by twenty hounds, Didn’t get to sleep that night
Till the morning came around…Grateful Dead

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When I said that I was lying, I might have been lyingElvis Costello
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Though nothing will keep us together/We can be heroes/Just for one day…David Bowie
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Lose your dreams and you. Will lose your mind…Rolling Stones

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It’s a town full of losers, I’m pulling out of here to win…Bruce Springsteen

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The motor cooled down, the heat went down, and that’s when I heard that highway sound…Chuck Berry

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We were the first band to vomit at the bar, and find the distance to the stage too far…The Who

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Janis Joplin – Mercedes Benz

This is based on a song called C’mon, God, and buy me a Mercedes Benz by the Los Angeles beat poet Michael McClure. Joplin saw McClure perform it, and on August 8, 1970, she reworked it into her own song, which she performed about an hour later.

This was a fun song off of Janis’s last album Pearl. The song did not chart as a single but the album peaked at #1 in 1971 after Janis died.

Janis Joplin never got a Mercedes Benz, but she did have a 1965 Porsche that was painted to become a piece of hippie art.

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A lot of song facts for such a short song.

From Songfacts

As recounted in the Patti Smith memoir Just Kids, before her show at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, she went to a nearby bar (likely Vahsen’s, later renamed Little Dick’s) with her good friend, the songwriter Bob Neuwirth, and two more recent acquaintances, the actors Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. Joplin started reciting the line, “Oh, Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz” – the first line of McClure’s song. The four started banging beer mugs on the table to form a rhythm, and Neuwirth wrote down lyrics he and Joplin came up with on a napkin. They finished the song, and Janis performed it at the show, introducing it by saying, “I just wrote this at the bar on the corner. I’m going to do it Acapulco.”

That show was recorded and widely bootlegged, as it was her penultimate performance and the debut of “Mercedes Benz.” Joplin played her last concert on August 12 at Harvard Stadium and died on October 4.

The song is a social commentary on how many people relate happiness and self-worth with money and material possessions. Sung a capella in a blues style, Joplin was poking fun at the mindset that luxury goods will make everything better.

Janis Joplin is from Port Arthur, Texas, a small city close to the Gulf of Mexico near the Louisiana border. In the second verse, the line “Dialing for Dollars is trying to find me” refers to a segment the local NBC station ran called “Dialing for Dollars.” The station would announce a password on the air, then call a local phone number at random later on. If whoever answered knew the password, that person would win a cash prize. Variations of “Dialing for Dollars” ran in many cities throughout the United States and Canada in the ’60s and early ’70s.

This song spoke to the shift in the counterculture, as some of the impoverished musicians speaking out against the system were now very rich. As Barney Hoskyns, who wrote about Joplin and the song in his book Small Town Talk: Bob Dylan, The Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Friends in the Wild Years of Woodstock told us, “Rock was now big business, and a lot of money was flooding into the pockets of people who never expected to make it. This set up a mixture of expectation and guilt – they were acquiring a taste for the finer things but knew that a good hippie shouldn’t be materialistic. By the early ’70s it had all changed, and rock stars were the new Yuppies.”

Joplin recorded this song at Sunset Sound studios in Los Angeles on October 1, 1970 with producer Paul Rothchild, famous for his work with The Doors. It ended up being her last recording session, as she died three days later (she also recorded a version of “Happy Trails” as a 30th birthday present for John Lennon” in this session).

The Pearl album was just about finished when Joplin died. Rothchild included her raw take of “Mercedes Benz” on the album, leaving it a capella. A quip Joplin made before her vocal take – “I’d like to do a song of great social and political import” – was included as an introduction. In its unadorned state, the song showcased Joplin’s humor and raw vocal talent.

In the mid-’90s, Mercedes used this in commercials for their cars. It was one of the great misappropriations of a song in a commercial, as Joplin’s song was meant to convey the message that owning a luxury automobile does not make you a better person. Joplin’s estate – sister Laura and brother Michael – allowed Mercedes to use it.

There are three credited songwriters on this track: Joplin, Michael McClure, and Bob Neuwirth. McClure says he never earned a cent from his poetry, but “Mercedes Benz” paid for his house in the Butters Canyon section of Oakland, California.

In an interview published in hE@D Magazine, Michael McClure said that Joplin called him before recording the song to get his permission. She sang him the song, then he sang her his original version, and they both liked their own renditions better. “Then she asked me if she could sing it, and I agreed,” McClure said. “I had no idea that her songs were worth so much money.”

The soul singer Bobby Womack claimed credit for inspiring this song. According to Womack, Joplin got the idea for the song after riding in his new Mercedes 600. Womack was having success as a songwriter, and Joplin commissioned him to write a song for her Pearl album, which turned out to be “Trust Me.” She recorded that one (which also appears on the Pearl album), and asked for another.

As recounted in his Womack’s book Midnight Mover, he took her for a ride, and she was impressed with the new car. After a few blocks, she started singing: “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedez Benz…”

When they returned to the studio, the band had gone home, but Joplin put down the vocal track. 

This took place on October 1, 1970. As Womack told it, Joplin got a phone call, which he presumed was her drug dealer. She asked him to leave, they hugged goodbye, and Joplin was found dead three days later.

Mercedes Benz

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?
I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?

Everybody!
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

Janis Joplin – Get It While You Can

A great bluesy song off of Pearl, Janis’s last album. The song peaked at #78 in the Billboard 100 in 1971. “Get It While You Can” was written by the songwriting team of Jerry Ragovoy and Mort Shuman, and originally recorded by the soul singer Howard Tate. The song was the title track to Tate’s debut album, which was produced by Ragovoy. His version made just #134 in the US, and Tate struggled in the business before giving up music in the mid-’70s.

Pearl was Janis’s most polished album. Janis died on October 4, 1970, and the album was released on January 11, 1971. The album would peak at #1.

John Lennon’s birthday was on October 9 and Janis recorded a birthday message for him while completing Pearl. She sang “Happy Trails”…but by the time John received the tape, Joplin had died.

From Songfacts

In 2002, Tate once again teamed up with Ragovoy to record a new album called Rediscovered, on which they included a new version of this song. Speaking with Record Collector about the new version, Tate said, “The words mean much more to me now than they did back then, then they were just the words of a song someone had wrote for me. Now they have all the meaning in the world, I can relate to them. You have to Get It While You Can because you may not get it tomorrow, you may not get another chance.”

The most popular version of this song was recorded by Janis Joplin and the Full Tilt Boogie Band and included as the last track on her 1971 posthumous album Pearl. So if you listen to her primary studio albums in order of release, this is the last song you hear from her.

This song is about not passing up the opportunity for love and comfort, because life’s too mean and short. Isn’t that just about the cornerstone of Joplin’s philosophy? In the book Love, Janis by Janis’ sister Laura Joplin, Full Tilt Boogie Band guitarist John Till shares this moment of Janis’ free-wheeling spirit: “She’d come boogeying up to me and our faces would come right together like that, and then she’d give me a great big kiss. And I wouldn’t remember nothing except big asterisks and f***ing exclamation points over my head… It was an experience, taking a guitar solo in front of forty thousand people and getting this kiss from Janis.”

Also from Love, Janis, a glimpse into her application of the counter-culture philosophy right towards her last year: “In private, she was changing in small but important ways. When someone who latched onto her group was grumbling angrily about the ‘pigs’ abusing their power, Janis cut him short. ‘They’re cops, just people doing their job, honey. Don’t call them pigs, it just makes it worse.’ When she first started touring with Big Brother, if a waitress was rude to them because of their attire and style, they often left without tipping. On the Full Tilt tour, a rude waitress might be left a $100 bill, as a way to change her attitude about hippies.”

From the same book, a quote from Janis offering a take on her life’s work: “My whole purpose is to communicate. What I sing is my own reality. But just the fact that people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, that’s my reality too,’ proves to me that it’s not just mine.”

This song reached its peak position of #78 US in September 1971, nearly a year after Joplin died.

Get It While You Can

In this world, if you read the papers, darling
You know everybody’s fighting ah with each other
You got no one you can count on babe
Not even your own brother
So if someone comes along
He gonna give you some love and affection

I’d say get it while you can, yeah
Honey, get it while you can, yeah
Hey hey, get it while you can
Don’t you turn your back on love, no, no

Don’t you know when you’re loving anybody, baby
You’re taking a gamble on a little sorrow
But then who cares, baby
‘Cause we may not be here tomorrow, no

And if anybody should come along
He gonna give you any love and affection
I’d say get it while you can, yeah
Hey, hey, get it while you can
Hey, hey, get it while you can
Don’t you turn your back on love
No no no, no no no no no

Oh, get it while you can, yeh
Honey get it when you’re gonna wanna need it dear, yeah yeah
Hey hey, get it while you can
Don’t you turn your back on love
No no no, no no no no, get it while you can

I said hold on to somebody when you get a little lonely, dear
Hey hey, hold on to that man’s heart
Hey hey, get it, want it, hold it, need it
Get it, want it, need it, hold it
Get it while you can, yeah
Honey get it while you can, baby, yeah
Hey hey, get it while you can

My Favorite Singers

There are so many singers that I cannot possibly list them all. I could make a top 30 and not get them all. This is my personal favorite top 10 plus some extra.

For the most part, I like singers with soul and meaning to their singing…not vocal gymnastics.

1…Aretha Franklin – Aretha could make any song better by singing it.

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2…Van Morrison, Them and Solo  – Probably my favorite male singer.

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3…John Lennon, Beatles – John hated his voice and always wanted an effect on it…It didn’t need it…one of his best performances was “A Day In The Life”

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4…Bob Dylan – Bob changed popular singing.  I would rather hear Bob sing than many of the great traditional singers.

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5…Elvis Presley – Hey he’s Elvis…

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6…Otis Redding – Just a fantastic singer and performer and just taking off before he was killed in a plane crash.

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7…Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones – Mick makes the most out of his voice.

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8…John Fogerty…CCR – If I could have the voice of anyone…it would be Fogerty. The power that John has is incredible…his voice is its own instrument.

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9…Janis Joplin – She put everything she had in each song. Her last producer Paul A. Rothchild was teaching Janis how to hold back and sing more traditional to save her voice for old age…which never came.

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10…Johnny Cash – Last but far from least.  Only one man can sound like Cash…and that is Cash

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Honorable Mention…any of these could have easily been on the list.

Steve Marriott, Paul McCartney, Levon Helm, Bessie Smith, Little Richard, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Elton John, Neil Young, Roy Orbison, Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, Joe Cocker, Billie Holiday, Freddie Mercury, Kate Bush, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Rodgers, David Bowie.

 

 

 

 

The Festival Express

Transcontinental Pop Festival… better known as the Festival Express. Great idea on paper… rounding up musicians in 1970 and placing them on a train going across Canada and stopping along the way to play festivals. What could go wrong? Actually, I would have loved to have been on that train.

The lineup:

The Band

The Grateful Dead

Janis Joplin

Buddy Guy Blues Band

The Fly Burrito Brothers

Sha Na Na

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends

There were more that were not in the film like Traffic, Ten Years After, Tom Rush, Ian & Sylvia, Mountain and more.

A DVD was released of this in 2004. All these musicians on a train full of liquor and an assortment of drugs… liquor was the popular choice among the musicians on this ride. The tour was to have events in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver. The Montreal event was canceled as was Vancouver. In Toronto, protesters were saying the festival promoters were price gouging so The Grateful Dead played a free concert in a park nearby to ease tensions with the protesters.

There are some very good performances on the DVD. My favorite is Buddy Guy and Janis Joplin’s performance. I also like the Dead’s “Don’t Ease Me In” with Pigpen on blues harp. The festival lost money and the film was thought lost for over 30 years. Janis would be gone a few months after this but her performance of Cry Baby is electrifying.

The train was where the fun was at. They actually stopped at a liquor store and bought out the complete store…including the giant display bottles. The Dead’s crew even dosed some of the liquor…and cake as you will see below… on board. When watching the film you can see the performers are having a ball jamming with each other because they didn’t get a lot of chances to do that on the road.

Bill Kreutzmann (drummer for the Dead) from his book “Deal”

We celebrated Janis Joplin’s birthday at the last stop the traditional way: with birthday cake. In keeping with our own kind of tradition, somebody—within our ranks, I would imagine—had secretly infused the cake with a decent amount of LSD. So it quickly became an electric birthday celebration. Allegedly, some generous pieces of that birthday cake made it to the hands and mouths of the local police who were working the show. “Let them eat cake!” (To be fair, I didn’t have anything to do with that … I was just another cake-eating birthday reveler, that night.)
And that was it for the Festival Express. It was a wonderful time and I think what really made it great was the level of interaction and camaraderie among the musicians, day and night, as we were all trapped on this train careening across the great north. It probably helped that we were all trashed the entire time. Whiskey was in the conductor’s seat on that ride.

I would recommend getting the DVD of this event. It’s a great time capsule of that time in music and culture.

 

Janis Joplin

I cannot say how much I love this woman. Janis had the most powerful voice I have ever heard. She could sing with beauty and she could sing with a sound like Southern Comfort pouring through razor blades. There was soul, confidence, strength, and vulnerability in her voice that came through in every song.

She moved from Texas to San Francisco and became part of the San Francisco music scene with the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Her influences were Billy Holiday, Bessie Smith. Big Mama Thornton, Odetta, and Leadbelly.

She played with Big Brother and the Holding Company who were as raw as you could get and they played at Monterrey and broke through. She went solo with a couple of backing bands The Kozmic Blues Band and the Full Tilt Boogie Band.

There are few artists who give everything they have all the time. Bruce Springsteen is one…Janis was one. On film it comes through…she gives everything she has and more.

My favorite songs by Janis are…. well I could hear her sing the phone book and I would be happy….but some I really like are…Down On Me, Summertime, Piece of My Heart, Ball, and Chain, Try (Just a little bit Harder), Maybe, Little Girl Blue, Cry Baby, Me and Bobby McGee, Mercedes Benz and anything live she did with either band…She could sing the blues and she lived them…

Her nickname was Pearl and that was the name of her last album. She left $2,500 for her wake…. 200 guests were invited with invitations that read…”Drinks are on Pearl”…

I only wished she could have survived and been alive today. Much like Jimi Hendrix, I hate to think what we missed out on.

The Dick Cavett Show

 

The Dick Cavett Show on ABC  was a smart alternative to the Tonight Show with  Johnny Carson and Cavett frequently booked intellectuals for extended and in-depth conversations

You actually got to really know the guests. He took more than 10 minutes, unlike today…there were no distractions, no busy sets just great conversations.

The knock on Cavett was….snob, name-dropper and controversial guests. All three were correct and I loved it. Yes, he attended Yale and yes he was/is a name dropper…If I got to hang out with people like Groucho Marx I would be a name dropper also… you better believe it. He would book John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and many more. He welcomed the counterculture and Nixon hated him…that is a seal of approval for me.

He would mix and match guests….Janis Joplin, Raquel Welch and Gloria Swanson on the same show…together!

His ABC show in the early 70s was the best out of all of his different shows (PBS, CBS, USA Network). If he had a special rare guest he would only have that one guest for the entire show or sometimes two…

He had Norman Mailer and. Gore Vidal going at it… One show featured Salvador Dalí, Lillian Gish, and Satchel Paige. He took chances and it paid off… Johnny Carson once said that Dick Cavett was the only one that could have given him a serious challenge…but ABC then was a distant 3rd in the network race. 

This is not knocking Johnny whatsoever. Johnny’s show is the blueprint of today’s talk shows…Cavett just gave you a smarter show.

Watching the shows now it’s like watching a time capsule. Not everything is topical though. To hear Marlon Brando and Katherine Hepburn who hardly ever did talk shows is very interesting.

It was NOT… hey my name is Miss fill in the blank and my favorite color is blue…bye until next time I need to plug something… You really got to know the person and Dick could usually bring out something interesting. My favorite interview of George Harrison is by Dick. It didn’t look promising at first but George finally warmed up to a very relieved Cavett… this one was right after John and Yoko were guests.

Cavett and the 72 Rolling Stones Tour

Cavett and Woody Allen