Archive for September, 2011
SiLVER SPRiNGS should not be dismissed as a break-up song. It is a mid-tempo break-up song of sorts, yet it’s even more about that kind of tearing-yourself-apart feeling we have during, or resulting from a break-up. STEViE NiCKS, who wrote and sings lead vocals on this FLEETWOOD MAC track, epitomized the mid-seventies mystical chick. Not only did she look like a psychic ready to give a reading, but she also wrote songs about pagan goddesses and her own oceanic dreams. Her voice has one of the most insane vibratos known to pop and sometimes she doesn’t even sound human. Clearly she is human, and on SiLVER SPRiNGS she connects with a feeling of super-natural female eroticism, at least in my own opinion. “I’ll begin not to love you/ turn around, see me runnin’/ I’ll say I loved you years ago/ Tell myself you never loved me, no.” Yet again, I find myself recognizing that I too have felt that way about a love lost, or a love never fully realized. It can be painful, yet there is something both enchanting and desperate about a feeling like that, especially paired with her vocals and the accompaniment of FLEETWOOD MAC. The entire song is an experience in itself, beginning rather slowly and gentle, then building up in desperation before exploding out with her raw emotion. “Time casts a spell on you, but you won’t forget me/ I know I could have loved you but you would not let me/ I’ll follow you down till the sound of my voice will haunt you/ You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you”. Clearly, it’s never easy letting go. Not even for STEViE, apparently. Sometimes we hang on to something or someone for dear life, or at least until we have found a way to let go. A song like SiLVER SPRiNGS is really effective in reminding us all how collective and human it is to tear your self apart. I just wish I sounded this good when I was doing the tearing apart inside!
To begin – let me say that although it was a dream come true to finally see TUCKER in person, I was also sicker than a dog. I couldn’t let my state of exhaustion stop me from getting to see this phenomenal force in country music in person – after all I figured I may never get that chance again!
I’ve been thinking a lot about TUCKER and her performance Friday night, as it did certainly leave a lasting impression. I am a true fan of her vast catalog of music, which all began in 1972 when a 13 year old girl put out a hit song called DELTA DAWN. TANYA TUCKER stated as much in between songs last night that her career was the stuff dreams were made of. You also get the sense that she loves to look back on those times respectfully – and is someone who still lives and breathes her love of country music. It should also be noted that TUCKER became one of the few child performers to mature into adulthood without losing her audience, and during the course of her career, she notched a streak of Top 10 and Top 40 hits. You also have to appreciate that at the time this 13 year old was making records like WOULD YOU LAY WiTH ME (iN A FiELD OF STONE) – she was doing so alongside many legendary greats of country music, like CASH, MERLE HAGGARD, MEL TiLLiS and GEORGE JONES – all of whom were older and musicians she admired post her own fame.
Keep in mind that my thoughts come from the perspective of a particular TANYA TUCKER fan; I’m familiar with her entire career of music, enjoyed her 1997 tell-all auto biography NiCKEL DREAMS – and I think she was one of the hottest chicks from that NEW BREED of COUNTRY MUSiC that came from the early 1970’s. Today I also think she is incredibly underrated; something about seeing her at the Carp Fair solidified this. I’m not unfamiliar with the fact that the music business in general is challenging and fickle. I know TUCKER hasn’t necessarily had a hit song in years, nor is she present in today’s music market. This aside however I was still mildly disappointed to see the smallish crowd of fans clamor into the arena, most of which were seniors and drunken, middle-aged red necks. I’m sorry – but it’s true. What did I expect right? It saddened me ever so slightly – only because TANYA TUCKER iS A LiViNG LEGEND PEOPLE SHOULD APPRECiATE - and she deserves major props. So she’s not selling albums like CARRiE UNDERWOOD anymore but mark my word, when TANYA TUCKER goes, so does the end of what I think was a beautiful era of country music. I hope she can get adequate recognition at least once more before that time comes. She should be filling huge arenas.
Listen to me! Perhaps I sound slightly morbid – but I can explain. Part of this rising sentiment comes right from last night’s experience seeing her live.
I’m going to start with the positives. First of all – TUCKER performed familiar songs that most fans would expect. From TROUBLE, WALKiNG SHOES, and STRONG ENOUGH TO BEND, her voice remains amazing and this professional knows how to control her vocals impeccably. In fact, there was a moment where she sang OH WHAT iT DiD TO ME when I was so in the ‘moment’ with her, if you will (I was literally crouched down in front of the stage staring up at her) that I even teared up. Why? Quite frankly the wave of emotion was because she is extraordinary – but also because I recognized the moment as a dream come true. I’ll remember that moment forever.
TANYA also possesses a lot of that same old swag she had in the 1970’s and 80’s. Although not quite in the same physical shape (she is now pushing 53), her ability to move on stage and do so with appeal remind me of the days when tabloids referred to her as a TEXAS TORNADO; notoriously bouncing around Hollywood with the likes of GLEN CAMPBELL, causing a raucous as much for her private life as her professional. I’ll always love this aspect of her character.
Finally, what I appreciated between songs and swagger were her candid stories of the golden age of NASHViLLE and country music. Clearly you can tell that TUCKER is as devoted to country and her fans as she ever was. I was reminded of how in NiCKEL DREAMS she spoke very highly of her father BEAU TUCKER – a hard working man who basically broke down doors trying to pitch his young and talented daughter to music executives to get her a record deal. NiCKEL DREAMS informed me she was unique in many ways – but that she did and still does possess much respect for those before her, those who got her where she is – and those relics of country music that informed the singer she became in her own right. This is another aspect of what I love about her.
I was struck with this immediate sense mid-way through her set that TUCKER speaks of such glory days with a hint of sadness and loss. For one thing she was under the weather – even stating as much to the audience. It turns out she would have canceled the show due to a nasty bug but successfully pulled it together in time for Carp Fair. With a few messy starts it was apparent she had not fully recuperated and it only began to show more, at least to me. Then again, I see everything ….
Like I stated, her performances were always point-on. It was within her dialogue she revealed much more. For example, speaking briefly of legendary producer JERRY CRUCHFiELD (producer of her earlier hits) she lamented on how meaningful those earlier experiences were – but also with a strange tinge of sadness, almost mourning. Just having flown in from NASHViLLE, TUCKER also made mention of a visit she made to GLEN CAMPBELL, whom she’ll forever be infamously connected with because of their torrid affair in the early 1980’s. These stories will always be remembered but when TUCKER talks about CAMPBELL today (CAMPBELL is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease) she again does so with a real undercurrent of lonesomeness and difficulty. It’s almost as though she wears the pain of accepting the passing of time on her sleeve.
The biggest indication that something is just not right with TANYA TUCKER these days – comes straight from the horse’s mouth. TUCKER’S devoted father BEAU passed away not 2 years ago, and before giving a shortened and shaky version of TWO SPARROW iN A HURRiCANE she admitted that this loss hit hard and has ultimately changed her outlook on life, admitting “I’ve lost my mojo…”. It was both touching and … well for me, sad. I had always seen TUCKER as a tough-ass broad with booty and hardiness. Before me however, I was looking at a woman affected by these losses; perhaps watching those who she was ever so close to in her childhood career pass away has exposed her vulnerabilities? This could just be the social worker in me talking…. When I stop to think about it – I suppose I only see this aspect the way I do because not so long ago we lost both my Grandpa Stan and Grandma Mary. It devastated my mother, who said something very similar in regards to losing her mojo – and I know my mom would understand where TUCKER is coming from. I’ve never lost on that level – but I can’t imagine how it would impact me. TUCKER went from a icon – to human in my eyes. In the flesh to boot.
Closing the show with DELTA DAWN the song that started it all, TUCKER sang the infamous opening lines “She’s 41 and her Daddy still calls her Baby/ All the folks around Brownsville say she’s crazy/Cuz she walks around town with a suitcase in her hand/Looking for a mysterious, dark haired man”. At one time a 13 year old girl who sang songs telling mythic stories in a reedy voice that belied her age sang about this old crazy broad named Delta Dawn – fast-forward to today and its a 53 year old woman. Themes of loneliness, loss of youth, losing your mind – all run around in my congested mind – and to quote CARRiE BRADSHAW, I couldn’t help but wonder – is TANYA TUCKER losing it??? I sincerely hope not. I’m not ready to lose HER yet.
Ultimately I hope my girl can get it together. If you’re out there and reading this TANYA – know that these thoughts are merely the ratings of boy/man who is as devoted to you and your music as you were to country music. Keep it together and know that regardless of the passing of time and the losses that come with it you have left your mark on country music – let’s just hope you get your MOJO back in time to shove some more incredible music down our throats. I know I’ll be anxiously waiting!
Let me just start off by clarifying that the subject of Cactus Tree, the ‘Lady in the city’ who ‘thinks she loves them all’ is not a slut. She is not a cold, heartless flake who enjoys leaving a string of men from all over the world behind her, pining for her return. For me the Lady represents a wild, untamed beauty. I actually admire her. She is an enigma; free and liberated. She’s everything from a dreamer and artist, to a traveller, lover and a leaver. She can love someone freely, unfettered by the expectations or heartbreak of her admirers. Her journey is what invigorates her and gives her life. It would seem that she inevitably confuses the hearts of admirers left behind, yet it is for this reason that Cactus Tree is just as much about the ‘Jouster’ or ‘Jester’ or the man ‘who owns the store’ as it is about the Lady Cactus Tree. They are integral to her story and are real. She has loved them. She may even, still. There is a complexity in the dynamics of her relationships which I have always been drawn to. And while I haven’t left my own string of admirers behind, I have lived a little and I am an Aquarius. Known for their independence, they do not like to be pinned down and can therefore come across as unemotional or detached. It’s for all of these reasons I can relate to the narrative of Cactus Tree. The Lady may have a splendid desire that is infused in her natural ability to seduce and charm her chain of beaus, yet this desire is not simply about seduction, but ultimately an expression of her desire for freedom. Make no mistake however; I know one could argue that this arrangement could eventually cause a girl a lot of turmoil and strife. While it goes without saying I love the music and art of JONi MiTCHELL, Cactus Tree always comes back to me as a representation of one of her best songs.
Thanks in part to JOHNNY CASH and JUNE CARTER there was a time in country music, particularly during the late 60’s and 1970’s where the trend was to pair a Country King and Country Queen together in vocal harmony. It was the golden age of country and western duets – resulting in two strong individual voices uniting together in holy melody.
Below I’ve outlined four of what are in my opinion, country music’s quintessential duet partnerships of our time. I’ve done this in effort to celebrate these partnerships as well remind people of their musical contribution in general – for this particular tradition of duets is a thing of the past – or is it? I would like to think not, but for today I suggest if you’re unfamiliar with any of the following musical pairings – you might wanna go right out and download them today!
Something I enjoyed about the partnership that was JUNE and JOHNNY CASH was the terrific sense of family and tradition they brought to their live shows and music. If the intent was to have a hoe-down throw-down of a good time – you got “Jackson” or “It Ain’t Me Babe”, two of this duo’s greatest hits and ones that they often played on the road in their hey-day. Yet, fast forward to JUNE’S 1991 ‘Press On’ and you’ll hear “Far Side Banks Of Jordan”, arguably the most utterly beautiful tale of love and dedication JUNE and JOHNNY ever recorded together period.
Written by schoolteacher TERRY SMiTH, ‘Far Side Banks of Jordan’ sounds as though it could very well be taken from the pages of their life story. Its simple message is one of devotion – even in afterlife. The delivery of this pledge is touching and beautiful particularly when you stop to appreciate how the sounds of time and age come out in each of their respective voices. Far more experienced than 1970’s ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ – yet no more or less significant in terms of musical genius. The combined experience they are able to draw from is very evident within the words of each line and the end result is heavy with commitment.
Another aspect about JUNE and JOHNNY CASH I found interesting was that JUNE had already been considered a pioneer of country music, having been born into THE CARTER FAMILY (aka. A.P, SARA, ‘MOTHER’ MAYBELLE). MAYBELLE had three daughters (THE CARTER SISTERS: ANiTA, HELEN & JUNE), all of whom appeared live on stage and television before JOHNNY CASH ever entered the picture. To me JUNE and JOHNNY’S music is grounded in THE CARTER FAMiLY’S epic history of tradition and song and it continues to live on.
“Honky Tonk Girl” LORETTA LYNN brought to country music a traditional sound with a candid, contemporary attitude, particularly in her own oft-humorous but straight-forward compositions. She had a determidly pro-woman point of view.
This point of view made for some incredible duets between LORETTA and CONWAY TWiTTY, singer of ‘Hello Darlin’’ and country star in his own right. TWiTTY had originally been pegged as a rock n’ roll singer at the beginning of his career, eventually embracing his country side. Together, CONWAY and LORETTA (as they were known in their act), won four consecutive Country Music Association awards for vocal duo (1972–75) and a host of other duo and duet awards from other organizations throughout the 1970s.
LORETTA and CONWAY were never actually married as were JUNE and JOHNNY CASH, yet their duets often implied as much, establishing another aspect of the country and western duet that I loved. When you think about it – it was easy for listeners to assume that LORETTA and CONWAY were indeed married. ‘After the Fire is Gone’, ‘Louisiana Woman/Mississippi Man’ and ‘Feelin’s’ typically played off the idea that they were either in marital heaven or – hell. Either way it’s clear that together they had a great deal of fun, making the music truly enjoyable to listen to. The duo of LORETTA LYNN and CONWAY TWiTTY was built on a foundation of friendship and mutual respect and therefore in the end it didn’t matter that both were happily married to other people – for the world enjoyed the fantasy.
DOLLY PARTON’S rags-to-riches story is by now one most people know and understand – however few people know the depth of the story behind her musical partnership with PORTER WAGONER. At a very early time in PARTON’S career her songwriting efforts and minor radio play grabbed the attention of WAGONER, a major country and western television star of THE PORTER WAGONER SHOW. He hired PARTON as his duet partner in 1967, charmed by her songwriting ability, unique voice, and sex-bomb appearance – sky high platinum wig, JAYNE MANSFiELD figure accentuated by skintight country-lass garb, and bubbly, down-home personality. WAGONER himself a blonde, rhinestone-bespangled dandy, helped PARTON wrangle a deal with RCA; and in return she breathed new life into his tired act, contributing her fresh, tradition-based country songs to his repertoire. In addition to the show, they recorded separately and together over the next seven years. Similar to LORETTA LYNN and CONWAY TWiTTY, their songs were often filled with comic fighting couples, tragic dying children, and old-timey country folks – and their onstage and recorded sparring was reflective of their real-life love-hate relationship.
History aside, it’s the music of WAGONER and PARTON that stands the test of time and I personally cherish the most of any duet partnership, primarily because every aspect and every ingredient brought together by these two separate entities makes for some of the finest harmonies ever put on record between man and woman. These two were also a major force to be reckoned with as they not only dominated the country music charts but garnered many CMA awards for their duets. Personally I think ‘Tomorrow Is Forever’ may just be the best example of this marriage of voices, yet over the span of their seven recording years together they have no shortage of breathtaking music.
Over the past 20 years GEORGE JONES has frequently been referred to as “the greatest living country singer”, while his counterpart TAMMY WYNETTE was known as the First Lady of Country Music – making for one dynamic duo in music history.
Throughout his long career, JONES made headlines often as much for his singing as for tales of his drinking, stormy relationships with women and violent rages as for his prolific career of making records and touring. To me he was an artist in the true sense of the word – because as rough as his personal life may have been, as a vocalist JONES had a distinct way of singing where you couldn’t help but become immersed in whatever he sang about; be it honkytonks or heartache.
Similarly WYNETTE’S signature way of singing showcased her ability to understand true loneliness and heartache – which were often reoccurring themes in her solo music. JONES and WYNETTE married in 1969, creating a country music ‘couple’ in the true sense of the word – eventually recording a series of duet albums and singles. These albums and singles charted throughout the 1970’s, concurrent to their respective solo hits. How often does this happen today?
As was his personal life prior to WYNETTE, JONES infamously battled addiction and therefore it was no surprise that this dynamic duo ended in D.I.V.O.R.C.E in 1975, yet any true fan of country and western music will most certainly remember them together as much as they will always be praised for their unique solo efforts. It’s not difficult to listen to songs like ‘We’re Gonna Hold On’ or ‘Golden Ring’ and understand that as much love as they shared, they were no strangers marital problems and further more any status of theirs didn’t make them above the most common problems that tear two lovers apart. In many ways I believe it was this dynamic between them that served the recordings so well – lending to the overall magic. Lyrics were often simple yet the vocals of each were anything but. Together it made for a big impact.
CHECK out these youtube links for more on the great duet partnerships:
BRECK Shampoo is an American brand of shampoo that is also known for its BRECK GiRLS advertising campaigns, which remain iconic as well had a major presence in magazines for decades. Personally, I always found the BRECK GiRL and its campaigns a classic symbol of the Me-Decade; and another aspect that I loved in retrospect were the amazing earlier BRECK GiRL portraits originally done by commercial artist CHARLES GATES SHELDON (1889-1961). He created romantic images of feminine beauty and purity, and according to research he preferred to draw ‘real women’ as opposed to professional models. I enjoy these portraits for their simplicity and charm.
As a side note, the story behind BRECK SHAMPOO goes like this: In 1930 DR. JOHN H. BRECK founded BRECK SHAMPOO. In 1936, his son EDWARD J. BRECK assumed management and hired SHELDON to draw women for their advertisements, which as I stated were very romantic and soft.
In 1957 RALPH WiLLiAMS succeeded SHELDON as the BRECK artist and unlike SHELDON, he often used professional women that exuded more glamor than earlier BRECK GiRLS. Anyone from this era can probably attest to how BRECK advertisements ran regularly in magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Seventeen, and VOGUE just to name a few. I remember they were most often on the back cover of the magazine and they always appeared so wholesome. Wholesome when it was cool to be wholesome. These advertising campaigns were very successful but after WiLLiAM’S death in 1976, the advertising tradition stopped and such was the end of the BRECK GiRL.
What we have today is a legacy of beautiful hair, girls and advertisements for a shampoo that always strived to evoke femininity and romance. After a bit of research I also determined that quite a few familiar names have actually been BRECK GiRLS in their time; such as CHERYL TiEGS, CYBiLL SHEPPARD, KiM BASiNGER, BROOKE SHiELDS and most notably, JACLYN SMiTH – whom I particularly remember most.