Monday, February 20, 2012

Spoken Word: Hot Rod Lincoln

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Hot Rod Lincoln


What's the first spoken-word song that pops into your head? Easy: Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen's "Hot Rod Lincoln," from their album, Lost in the Ozone and a surprising top 10 hit in 1972. It has a lot of spoken words.

What's the first thing that pops into your head about "Hot Rod Lincoln"? It is truly amazing how eclectic pop music was in 1972 -- and how narrow it is now. "Hot Rod Lincoln" made it all the way to number 7 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Other artists with records in the top 40 from the same week that "Hot Rod Lincoln" peaked: The Staples Singers (#1!), Sammy Davis Jr., the Rolling Stones, Al Green, Todd Rundgren, Jimmy Castor, the Jackson 5, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Jackson Browne, Andy Williams, Cat Stevens, and the Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragon Guards. (Yep, their version of "Amazing Grace" made it to the top 20).

OK, what's the second thing that pops into your head? How much I love this song and everything about it. The great mile-a-minute recitation by Commander Cody himself (a/k/a George Frayne). Bill Kirchen's incredible guitar runs. The song's pedigree -- "Hot Rod Lincoln" began life as a straight-ahead hillbilly boogie and an "answer" record, a sequel to a similar song called "Hot Rod Race." (An excellent history of both songs is available in a Star Maker post from 2008.) That despite now being nearly forgotten by both rock and country fans, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen deserve a lion's share of the credit for introducing hard-core country to the hipsters. And the fact that, even today, when you see Bill Kirchen perform, you know when he gets to "Hot Rod Lincoln" in his set, the next 10 to 15 minutes are going to be pure overdrive.

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