But I shot a man in Reno, Just to watch him die… Johnny Cash
It doesn’t get much better than that.
The man in black was The Man. Not many performers can cross genres like Johnny Cash did and still does. He first recorded this song in 1955 at Sun Records as the B side to “S3o Doggone Lonesome” but it was the live 1969 version that hit.
The At Folsom Prison album helped revitalize Cash’s career. Up to this point, his last Country top 40 entry was in 1964. This was recorded live at Folsom Prison in California on January 13, 1968, and that album came to define his outlaw image. The record company told him it wouldn’t work but Johnny recorded at the prison anyway.
Folsom Prison Blues peaked at #1 on the Billboard Country Charts, #1 on the Canadian Country Charts, #32 on the Billboard 100, and #17 on the Canadian Pop Charts. The song and album generated a lot of interest in the rebellious Johnny Cash, who made prison reform his political cause of choice. He started regularly performing in jails, doing about 12 shows a year for free mostly in Folsom and San Quentin.
The album peaked at #1 in the Billboard Country Charts, #13 in the Billboard Album Charts, and #27 in Canada.
This iconic picture came from Folsom Prison. According to photographer Jim Marshall…he asked Cash to express what he thought of the prison authorities when he played the show. Marshall told Cash “let’s do a shot for the warden” and the picture was born.
Cash saw Crane Wilbur’s 90-minute film Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison while stationed in Germany. It left an impression on Cash, who emphasized the tale of the imprisoned men, and inspired him to write a song. Johnny Cash:“It was a violent movie, I just wanted to write a song that would tell what I thought it would be like in prison.”
Cash’s first prison performance occurred in 1957 when he performed for inmates at Huntsville State Prison. The favorable response inspired Cash to perform at more prisons through the years. His next hit, recorded in San Quentin Prison, was the humorous “A Boy Named Sue,” which proved that he could be clever and funny.
Cash came off as a champion for the oppressed. He got his own national TV show in 1969 and became one of the most popular entertainers of his era. His guests included Derek and the Dominos, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Merle Haggard, James Taylor, Tammy Wynette, and Roy Orbison.
Isn’t that list incredible? Cash was considered a Country-Folk artist but look at the range of performers. The late sixties and seventies were like this ….and it’s the reason I like them so much…all the generations intersected at that point in time. I mean you have Eric Clapton and then you have Tammy Wynette on the guest list.
The lyrics to this song were based on a 1953 recording called Crescent City Blues by a bandleader named Gordon Jenkins with Beverly Maher on vocals. After filing a lawsuit, Gordon Jenkins received an out-of-court settlement from Cash in 1969. I have to say it does sound really close.
Johnny Cash:“I don’t see anything good come out of prison. You put them in like animals and tear out the souls and guts of them, and let them out worse than they went in.”
Rosanne Cash:“He was a real man with great faults, and great genius and beauty in him, but he wasn’t this guy who could save you or anyone else.”
Folsom Prison Blues
(Hello, I’m Johnny Cash)
I hear the train a-comin’
It’s rollin’ ’round the bend
And I ain’t seen the sunshine
Since I don’t know when
I’m stuck in Folsom Prison
And time keeps draggin’ on
But that train keeps a-rollin’
On down to San Antone
When I was just a baby
My Mama told me, “son
Always be a good boy
Don’t ever play with guns”
But I shot a man in Reno
Just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowin’
I hang my head and cry (play it to the verse, yeah)
I bet there’s rich folks eatin’
From a fancy dining car
They’re probably drinkin’ coffee
And smokin’ big cigars
Well, I know I had it comin’
I know I can’t be free
But those people keep a-movin’
And that’s what tortures me (hit it)
Well, if they freed me from this prison
If that railroad train was mine
I bet I’d move it on, a little
Farther down the line
Far from Folsom Prison
That’s where I want to stay
And I’d let that lonesome whistle
Blow my blues away
It’s gone past simple holograms…they are now avatars (the ABBA reunion). For the sake of this post… I’ll call them holograms. This post is basically me arguing with myself and wanting some input.
I’ve thought about the subject of the dead rock star hologram tours off and on. I apologize for putting it so bluntly but that is what it is. Something in me just tells me there is something inherently wrong about this. So I hate to ask myself this…but would I want to go to a Jimi Hendrix show playing near me? Uh…yes I would and I feel bad about saying that. I would probably go and then hate the decision later. How could they capture Jimi Hendrix? I don’t see how someone could capture a performer like him…who was different every time he played.
I was surprised at my answer that I would even go. On the other hand, we have laser shows with bands’ music…so what is the big difference? We also have duets with Paul McCartney singing with John Lennon right now on Paul’s tour. When I saw The Who, there was Keith Moon singing “Bell Boy” in a film from a concert in the 70s while the current Who was playing. I also got to see Beatlemania with artists dressed up as The Beatles…somewhat different than this but is it really?
It’s something that I think will happen in the near future for different stars no matter if we like it or not. Holograms have been around for a while. In 1977 The Who presented a promotional event just for their fans with this Keith Moon hologram (with the real Keith Moon in attendance) and in another event in 2009…obviously without the real Keith in attendance.
Keith is near the end of his life in this version…you can tell it’s older with the greenwash all around. The big difference is now …the holograms sing, move, and play their instruments or rather they appear to do that. There have been shows now built around Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Elvis, Ronnie James Dio, ABBA (who are very much alive), Whitney Houston, Tupac, Billie Holiday, Wilson Pickett, and more.
The families are in control now and will decide. I’ll ask myself again…would I want to see the Hamburg or Cavern Beatles? The 1972 Rolling Stones? the 1969 Who? The 1950’s Elvis? AC/DC with Bon Scott? 1970 Janis Joplin? The Doors?
Yes to all the questions I asked but…I’m not sure how I would feel.
What do you think? Would it be unsettling to see a long-gone performer in their prime again a few feet from you? Would you go see a show (not really a concert) of your favorite deceased performer?
Now, on the other hand, there is another angle. If Bob Dylan, who is very much alive, would announce tomorrow that a 1966 version of himself was going on tour…would I go? Oh yes, I would and I would not feel bad at all. ABBA just did this also. So why do I think I would feel different about seeing Jimi, Lennon, Janis, or someone else that has long been gone?
Before you answer…now, current bands can play in Washington and be projected as holograms in London simultaneously…so it’s taken a huge jump. See the bottom video. No traveling in stuffy vans….just play at your local pizza joint and be somewhere else also. So our band could play in my garage and be on stage at Carnegie Hall and interact with the audience. I have to wonder how far it will go?
I’m including at least one song off of Tom’s album Full Moon Fever every day this week…So if you don’t know the album stay tuned, if like the album stay tuned,and if you don’t like the album…sorry. It was a great album released in 1989 that was arguably the peak of Tom’s career.
Full Moon Fever
Tom was not happy with the last Heartbreakers album (Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) released in 1987 and wanted a change. Mike Campbell (Heartbreakers guitar player): “Tom called me up and said, ‘We’re done. I think we’re done.” He called back later and said that at least temporarily he wasn’t going to work with the Heartbreakers.
He ended up using Belmont Tench and Howie Epstein from the Heartbreakers for a few songs but it was Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Mike Campbell and Phil Jones on drums who made the album. They did have some help from George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Del Shannon among others.
Released in 1989, Full Moon Fever would become Petty’s greatest commercial success. During its creation Jeff Lynne helped inspire him to create some of his best and most popular songs. But along the way he also risked further alienating several members of the Heartbreakers.
Free Fallin’ may be the song he is most remembered. Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne wrote and recorded “Free Fallin'” in just two days, the first song completed for Full Moon Fever.“We had a multitude of acoustic guitars,” Petty told Rolling Stone of the song’s Byrds-y feel. “So it made this incredibly dreamy sound.”
The song peaked at #7 in the Billboard 100, #5 in Canada, #4 in New Zealand, and #59 in the UK in 1989.
Tom Petty: “There’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t hum ‘Free Fallin” to me or I don’t hear it somewhere,” “But it was really only 30 minutes of my life.”
Mike Campbell is The Heartbreakers’ guitarist. He has also produced and written the music for many of their songs, as well as “The Boys of Summer” and “The Heart Of The Matter” for Don Henley. Mike told us about working with Jeff Lynne: “When we did that first record with Jeff Lynne, Full Moon Fever, that was an amazing time for me because it was mostly just the three of us – me and Tom and Jeff – working at my house. Jeff Lynne is an amazing record-maker. It was so exciting for a lot of reasons. First of all, our band energy in the studio had gotten into kind of a rut, we were having some issues with our drummer and just kind of at the end of our rope in terms of inspiration – having a lot of trouble cutting tracks in the studio.
This project came along and really we were just doing it for fun at the beginning, but Jeff would come in and every day he would blow my mind. It was so exciting to have him and Tom come over and go, ‘OK, here’s this song,’ and then Jeff would just go. I’d never seen this done before, he’d say, ‘OK, here’s what we’re going to do: Put a drum machine down. Now put up a mic, we’re going to do some acoustic guitars. Put up another mic, were going to do a keyboard. OK, here’s an idea for the bass. Mike, let’s try some guitar on this. I’ve got an idea for a background part here…’
Sure enough, within five or six hours, the record would be done, and we’d just sit back and go, ‘How the f-ck did you do that?’ We were used to being in the studio and like ‘OK, here’s how the song goes’ and everybody would set up to play and just laboriously run the song into the ground, and it usually got worse and worse from trying to get the groove and the spirit and trying to get a performance out of five guys at once. This guy walked in and he knew exactly how to put the pieces together, and he always had little tricks, like with the background vocals how he would slide them in and layer them, and little melodies here and there. Tom and I were soaking it up. Pretty amazing, a very exciting time, like going to musical college or something.” (Read more in our interview with Mike Campbell.)
In a 2006 interview with Esquire magazine, Petty said: “‘Free Fallin” is a very good song. Maybe it would be one of my favorites if it hadn’t become this huge anthem. But I’m grateful that people like it.”
The lyrics deal with Los Angeles culture, mentioning actual places in the area: Reseda, Mulholland and Ventura Boulevard. It implies that the people of LA will casually use others for personal gain, as the singer has just dumped a girl and doesn’t even miss her. Petty was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida and moved to LA with The Heartbreakers in 1974. His outsider perspective came in handy in this song.
Directed by Julien Temple, the music video was ahead of its time in that it featured skateboarding before the X Games existed and action sports went mainstream. Legendary skater Mark “Gator” Rogowski appears in the video.
Petty considers this song a ballad; it’s one of his few hits without a guitar solo. There are plenty of ballads on his albums, but his record companies rarely released them as singles.
Petty and the Heartbreakers played this to close out their set at the halftime show of the Super Bowl in 2008. The song turned out to be appropriate for the New England Patriots, who were undefeated going into the game and led at halftime, only to lose at the end to the New York Giants. In 2002, when the Patriots won their first Super Bowl, the featured song at halftime was “Beautiful Day” by U2.
A live version by John Mayer returned this song to the US Hot 100 in July 2008, going to #51.
Petty performed this song, along with “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” with The Heartbreakers on Saturday Night Live when they were the musical guests on May 20, 1989. Their record company, MCA, wanted them to play “I Won’t Back Down,” which was out as a single and climbing the charts, but Petty defied them.
Petty often tells a story about performing this song at a pivotal night in his career. His label, MCA, rejected the Full Moon Fever album when he submitted it in 1988, claiming they didn’t hear a hit. Crestfallen, he went to a dinner party with George Harrison and Jeff Lynne at the home of Mo Ostin, head of Warner Bros. Records. Harrison had them break out the guitars and play “Free Fallin’,” which everyone thought was great. When Petty explained that it wasn’t good enough for his label, Ostin offered to sign him and put it out. They did the deal, but kept it secret until Petty fulfilled his commitment to MCA. Ostin didn’t have to put it out though: In 1989, management changed at MCA; the new regime liked Full Moon Fever and released it.
While MCA kept him in limbo, Petty teamed up with Lynne, Harrison, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan to form the Traveling Wilburys, a fruitful and highly acclaimed collaboration that sold over 3 million copies of their first album.
The song achieved its highest position on the UK singles chart in May 2012 after being covered by contestant Max Milner on the music talent show The Voice. It previously peaked at #64 in 1989.
Here’s what Tom Petty said about this song on his VH1 Storytellers appearance:
“‘I used to ride down Mulholland Drive and make up songs. Some of the songs were good, and some of the songs just wouldn’t swing. I had this one: [sings] ‘Mulholland Drive’ and I never could get anywhere with that song. So, I sat down one day with my friend Jeff Lynne and we were playing around on the keyboard. I hit this lick and he said, ‘That’s a good lick you got there,’ and I played it again. So, just to make him laugh I started to make up words:
She’s a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She’s a good girl, crazy about Elvis…
And he goes, ‘Good.’
I said, ‘What? What was good?’
‘It’s all good, just sing that.'”
The girl in the music video is Devon Kidd (born Devon Renee Jenkin). She also had roles in Enemy Of The State, Slammer Girls and Slumber Party Massacre III.
She was a gymnast and model when she got the call to audition for “Free Fallin’.”
“I don’t know if you want to do it,” her agent said. “It’s a small job.”
She knew Tom Petty and “Free Fallin'” and jumped at the opportunity. Today, it’s probably the role she’s best known for.
She’s a good girl, loves her mama Loves Jesus and America too She’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis Loves horses and her boyfriend too
It’s a long day living in Reseda There’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard And I’m a bad boy ’cause I don’t even miss her I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart
And I’m free, free fallin’ Yeah I’m free, free fallin’
All the vampires walkin’ through the valley Move west down Ventura boulevard And all the bad boys are standing in the shadows All the good girls are home with broken hearts
And I’m free, free fallin’ Yeah I’m free, free fallin’ Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m
I want to glide down over Mulholland I want to write her name in the sky Gonna free fall out into nothin’ Gonna leave this world for a while
And I’m free, free fallin’ Yeah I’m free, free fallin’
Running Scared is a song written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson. The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100 and #9 in the UK. Roy’s voice turns this into something more than just a pop song.
Something I’ve read about this session. Roy wasn’t happy with his first couple of takes. He felt he wasn’t singing that final verse loud enough. The orchestra seemed to be drowning him out. He’d been singing that final note in falsetto, and he finally decided to just sing it full-on, singing it as hard as he could. Orbison sang so hard the musicians in the orchestra stopped playing. They were stunned.
Running Scared, like many of his other songs, was recorded in RCA Studio B in Nashville with the session pros known as “The A-team.”
A song called “Running Scared” delivered in the trembling tones of Roy Orbison sure sounds pretty bleak, especially when he starts singing about the girl’s past love and how she still feels for him. At the end, however, we find out that everything works out for the best, and the girl walks away with the singer. Orbison’s plaintive voice led many to believe that all his songs were based on misery, but he liked to point out that this one has a happy ending.
Orbison began his career with Sun Records in Memphis, where he was a Rockabilly singer – in 1956 he reached #59 US with “Ooby Dooby,” recorded with his group the Teen Kings. As a songwriter, he also cracked the charts with “So Long I’m Gone” (#72 for Warren Smith in 1957) and “Claudette” (#30 in 1958 for The Everly Brothers).
After moving to Monument Records, Orbison went to Nashville and teamed with fellow songwriter Joe Melson. The pair began writing more operatic songs that would become huge hits for Orbison and define his style – songs that “give you an up mood while you’re crying,” as Melson put it. Their first major success was “Only The Lonely (Know The Way I Feel),” which was followed by “Blue Angel,” “Up Town,” “I’m Hurtin'” and “Running Scared,” which the pair claimed they wrote in just five minutes.
The engineer on these sessions was Bill Porter, who gave this song an exaggerated dynamic range, meaning some parts are very quiet and others are very loud. While most songs of the era had a range of about 3 decibels, Porter said that this one has 24.
This was the last song Roy Orbison ever sung live. His final performance was on December 4, 1988, just two days before his sudden passing, at a Cleveland-area venue. As was his usual habit, Orbison closed the show with “Running Scared.”
Just runnin’ scared each place we go So afraid that he might show Yeah, runnin’ scared, what would I do If he came back and wanted you
Just runnin’ scared, feelin’ low Runnin’ scared, you love him so Just runnin’ scared, afraid to lose If he came back which one would you choose
Then all at once he was standing there So sure of himself, his head in the air My heart was breaking, which one would it be You turned around and walked away with me.
This will be it for this Wilbury Weekend…one more tomorrow.
Congratulations for breaking my heart, Congratulations for tearing it all apart Congratulations, you finally did succeed, Congratulations for leaving me in need
This appeared on their first Album Vol 1. This was the B side of the single End of the Line. Dylan sings this song of despair.
There is not a song on either of their two original album that I don’t know by heart. This one was played a lot in my car…which I seemed to livein… going in between a girlfriend and friends.
Congratulations for breaking my heart Congratulations for tearing it all apart Congratulations, you finally did succeed Congratulations for leaving me in need
This morning I looked out my window and found A bluebird singing but there was no one around At night I lay alone in my bed With an image of you goin’ around in my head
Congratulations for bringing me down Congratulations, now I’m sorrow bound Congratulations, you got a good deal Congratulations, how good you must feel
I guess I must have loved you more than I ever knew My world is empty now ’cause it don’t have you And if I had just one more chance to win your heart again I would do things differently, but what’s the use to pretend?
Congratulations for making me wait Congratulations, now it’s too late Congratulations, you came out on top Congratulations, you never did know when to stop
This was the hit that kicked the Wilburys project off the ground. George Harrsison and Jeff Lynne started the ball rolling… Initially an informal grouping with Roy Orbison and Tom Petty, they got together at Bob Dylan’s Santa Monica, California studio to quickly record an additional track as a B-side for the single release of Harrison’s song This Is Love. This was the song they came up with, which the record company immediately realized was too good to be released as a single B side. They also recorded “You Got It” at the session, which helped convince them to record an album together.
The song made it to #2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs Chart in 1988.
The title Handle With Care came when George Harrison saw the phrase on the side of a cardboard box in the studio.
Tom Petty on Bob Dylan: “There’s nobody I’ve ever met who knows more about the craft of how to put a song together than he does. I learned so much from just watching him work. He has an artist’s mind and can find in a line the keyword and think how to embellish it to bring the line out. I had never written more words than I needed, but he tended to write lots and lots of verses, then he’ll say, this verse is better than that, or this line. Slowly this great picture emerges. He was very good in The Traveling Wilbury’s: when somebody had a line, he could make it a lot better in big ways.”
Handle With Care
Been beat up and battered ’round Been sent up, and I’ve been shot down You’re the best thing that I’ve ever found Handle me with care
Reputations changeable Situations tolerable Baby, you’re adorable Handle me with care
I’m so tired of being lonely I still have some love to give Won’t you show me that you really care?
Everybody’s got somebody to lean on Put your body next to mine, and dream on
I’ve been fobbed off, and I’ve been fooled I’ve been robbed and ridiculed In daycare centers and night schools Handle me with care
Been stuck in airports, terrorized Sent to meetings, hypnotized Overexposed, commercialized Handle me with care
I’m so tired of being lonely I still have some love to give Won’t you show me that you really care?
Everybody’s got somebody to lean on Put your body next to mine, and dream on
I’ve been uptight and made a mess But I’ll clean it up myself, I guess Oh, the sweet smell of success Handle me with care
How I love this song but…no matter how hard I try I cannot get the movie Blue Velvet out of my head while listening to it. The song helped revive Roy’s career when it appeared in the movie. Here is what Roy said:
Oh God! I was aghast, truly shocked! I remember sneaking into a little cinema in Malibu, where I live, to see it, Some people behind me evidently recognised me because they started laughing when the “In Dreams” sequence came on. But I was shocked, almost mortified, because they were talking about ‘the candy coloured clown’ in relation to doing a dope deal, then Dean Stockwell did that weird miming thing with that lamp. Then they were beating up that young kid! I thought, ‘What in the world? But later, when I was touring, we got the video out and I really got to appreciate not only what David Lynch gave to the song, and what the song in turn gave to the film, but how innovative the movie was, how it really achieved this otherworldy quality that added a whole new dimension to “In Dreams”. I find it hard to verbalise why, but Blue Velvet really succeeded in making my music contemporary again.
Roy Orbison claimed in interviews that the lyrics for this song came to him in a dream he wrote the music once he woke up. The song peaked #7 in the Billboard 100 in 1963. While the song was in the charts Orbison toured Britain with a new unknown group, named the Beatles.
This song is featured in a key scene in the 1986 film Blue Velvet where Dean Stockwell’s character lip-synchs to the song. Orbison initially rejected director David Lynch’s request to use this song, but later made a video for the track with scenes from the film.
The use of this song in Blue Velvet sparked a career resurgence for Orbison. Because of legal entanglements, he didn’t have access to the master recordings of many of his hits, so after the movie drummed up interest in his work, he set about re-recording his songs for a compilation called In Dreams: The Greatest Hits. When Orbison asked Lynch if he could use footage of the film in a video for the re-recorded “In Dreams,” Lynch not only agreed, but offered to help with the song. With T Bone Burnett producing, Lynch directed Orbison in his performance as he would an actor in a film, and it worked, allowing Orbison to be faithful to the original recording by doing it with no overdubs.
Shortly before he died, Roy Orbison recorded a follow-up to this song called “In The Real World” on his 1989 album Mystery Girl.
A candy-colored clown they call the sandman Tiptoes to my room every night Just to sprinkle star dust and to whisper “Go to sleep, everything is alright”
I close my eyes then I drift away Into the magic night, I softly say A silent prayer like dreamers do Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you
In dreams I walk with you In dreams I talk to you In dreams you’re mine all the time We’re together in dreams, in dreams
But just before the dawn I awake and find you gone I can’t help it, I can’t help it if I cry I remember that you said goodbye
Too bad it only seems It only happens in my dreams Only in dreams In beautiful dreams.
Roy was making a great comeback in the late eighties. He was a member of the Traveling Wilburys and he finished a new album called Mystery Girl in November of 1988. He confided in Johnny Cash that he was having chest pains and he would have to have it looked at…he never did.
The Traveling Wilburys Vol 1 was rising in the charts and he flew to Europe to do a show and came back and did a few more in America. On December 6, 1988, he flew model planes with his kids and after dinner passed away at the age of 52.
I remember watching the Traveling Wilburys video “End of the Line”. They made the video after Roy passed away… when his part came up they showed an empty rocking chair with Roy’s picture beside it.
You Got It featured Jeff Lynn, Tom Petty, and Phil Jones.
You Got It was released in 1989 and it peaked at #9 on the Billboard 100, #3 in the UK and #26 in Canada.
You Got It
Every time I look into your lovely eyes, I see a love that money just can’t buy. One look from you, I drift away. I pray that you are here to stay.Anything you want, you got it. Anything you need, you got it. Anything at all, you got it. Baby!
Every time I hold you I begin to understand, Everything about you tells me I’m your man. I live my life to be with you. No one can do the things you do. Anything you want, you got it. Anything you need, you got it. Anything at all, you got it. Baby! Anything you want Anything you need Anything at all
I’m glad to give my love to you. I know you feel the way I do. Anything you want, you got it. Anything you need, you got it. Anything at all, you got it. Baby! Anything you want, you got it Anything you need, you got it Anything at all, you got it Baby Anything at all Baby You got it
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