Saturday, September 12, 2015

BBQ/Grill: "Texas Cookin'" and "Hot Dog"

I will admit straight off: I had to go searching for a song to fit our theme this month. Much as I love grilling, I really couldn’t think of any song in particular that dealt with tossing burgers, brats and steaks on the bbq… And, in looking around for tunes to use, and reading about grilling, I realized how much I  miss my grill. I live in the middle of mega-city, all concrete and asphalt, and I can’t really grill here without 1) causing a fire on my balcony, or, 2) smoking out my neighbors. This city of mine isn’t really good for the outdoor kind of cooking I dig. It’s much more about little hobo fires on disposable grills over charcoal on the side of the road…that’s something I suppose, but I dig a nice propane fueled, six burner Weber that I can drive like a tank commander, steaks, sausage, chops and more, all guns blazing, ice cold beer in one hand, tongs in the other. Damn…maybe I need to move to a place with a back yard…? I googled a lot of songs about meat. I also googled “grill” and came up with a lot of pics the look like this…

…uh, yeah…that’s not what I was looking for…

Funny, there are tons of websites that list songs about BBQs, but those lists are all about songs that will make for a great BBQ, aural party favors so to speak. And of course, good tunes do make the party—but, party songs, floor filling sing-alongs, are usually not about eating. Drinking? Yes. There are more rock songs about partying and boozing it up than almost any other topic, but eating seems to take a secondary as a theme to drinking in the anthology of rock n rock lyricism.

That being said, it was kind of fun to seek out food references in music. What comes immediately to mind is Howlin’ Wolf’s brag that he can “ more chicken than any man ever seen…” in the classic blues staple “Back Door Man.” That’s a hell of a claim. He talks about “pork ‘n beans”, too. And now I’m getting hungry… So, where else do we find food in our tunes? North Carolina's deep fried rockabilly throw back rockers Southern Culture on the Skids do food well a few times, particularly with "Fried Chicken and Gasoline", but if your drumsticks taste like gasoline, you are doing it wrong, amigo... (SCOTS is a hell of a band, deserving of their own time, perhaps)

How about a song that chooses from the whole menu? Guy Clark’s “Texas Cooking.” I'm going down to save my soul/ Get that barbeque and chili…" Texas is a strange strange, with its strange ethos and self-referential tendencies and seeming dislike for the rest of the country. Politically, I can’t really take the place, but Austin has given the world a great many musical gifts, and while I’m sick of hearing how great the state is, how above the rest of the union the place is, I could very happily eat my way from the gulf to the top of the pan handle and go back for seconds. BBQ, Tex-Mex…? Almost makes you forget about the whole “Don’t mess with Texas” silliness. Clark’s tribute to Texas cooking hits on all the menu options: white gravy, big ol’ sausages, “enchiladas greasy…steaks chicken fried”. It’s pretty much a soul saving journey, with Texas food being the communion that will deliver:  “I'm going down to Austin, Texas/
The course says it all, summing up what all the good ‘ol cooking is going to do: Oh my, momma ain't that Texas cookin' something/Oh my, momma it'll stop yo' belly and backbone bumpin'/ Oh my, momma ain't that Texas cookin' good/Oh my, momma eat it everyday if I could alright 

For a guy like me who lives in a country that doesn’t believe in sausage, and has never really heard of enchiladas, let alone nachos, Clark comes across as preaching Gospel, stomach-rumbling truth…and when one hasn’t had a taco in far too long, Texas cooking just might save a soul.  Hallelujah, and pass the beans. And the rice. And whatever else you got. Guy Clark, "Texas Cookin'"
 Watch, live from 1975 And because I’m getting hungry for grilled fare that is distinctly American, I’m going to throw in a bonus track from one of my old time faves, Buck Owens. Twangy rock-a-billy finger popping tunes, Owens is credited with creating the “Bakersfield” sound. And that sound was really just an electric, buzzed up country which borrowed elements from early rock and roll, especially  flashy rhythm guitars and a steady go go go backbeat. Nashville, at the time, was orchestral and overproduced, (kind of like today) and the "Bakersfield" sound, even at an early stage, was looking back to the roots of rhythm. 

Later on, Owens would be associated with the related and refined “Honky Tonk” sound which featured raw finger picking,  twanging Telecasters and pedal steel guitars, but still with that great backbeat and sense of what we would eventually call country rock. Buck is also known for and associated with the TV show “Hee Haw”, but the less said about that, the better… For obvious reasons, I’m including Owen’s 1956 rock-a-billy strutter, “Hot Dog.” (He went by Corky Jones at the time). Starting out with a stair stepping bass line and a roadhouse piano line, “Hot Dog” might not be profound in its lyricism, but it’s got that sweet tangly guitar and the thumpy backbeat that I always think must have been the greatest sound ever heard when rock music first hit the airwaves. I know I’m not talking about food anymore, but what must that have been like, to hear that thumping cadence, drums simmering, guitar and bass ready to pop, leading to a blow up like a burst of fireworks? Must have been amazingly cool to hear that sense of joyful abandon for the first time. “Hot Dog” the song is only called so for the fact that the protagonist’s girl, while totally hot and one of hippest hep cats around, happens to work at a hot dog stand.  She’s a looker, she’s a dancer, she’s an all around teenage dream. And her cumulative effect on the singer is too leave him dumbstruck and incapable of uttering anything more than, “hot dog!” every time he sees her…I can relate. What pretty girl didn’t leave me stumble-dumb and tripping over my own two feet when I was that age?  Buck Owens "Hot Dog"  

Alright, then…I wish you fond listening and hope your kitchen and your grill is hoppin’ tonight with good tunes, juicy treats and if you’re on a diet—which is so not rock ‘n roll!—I hope this post doesn’t make you as hungry reading it as it did me writing it…bon appetite! <  

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