Friday, February 6, 2015

Jukebox: Please Mr. Please; Don’t Rock the Jukebox; Bubba Shot the Jukebox

Ever wonder about what NOT to play on the jukebox? That’s assuming all you button-pushing country music loving cowboys can even find a jukebox in some out-of-the-way diner or laundromat in a turnout off America’s loneliest highway.

In “Please Mr. Please,” Olivia Newton-John beseeches us to “Please, Mr., please don't play B-17, it was our song, it was his song, but it's over.” She put that song out back in 1975 when “you can hear your five selections for a quarter.”

In “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” Alan Jackson's heart ain't ready for the Rolling Stones. He wants to hear some Jones, as in George Jones, but the heartbroke hillbilly would settle for any good ol’ slow country song with some wailing pedal steel guitar. It’s better that he’s using music to “drown a memory" than the typical whiskey of choice mentioned in most country songs with the same sorrowful theme.

“Bubba Shot the Jukebox” is another one that a friend on social media brought to my attention. She stated, “It was a very funny song, and I loved singing along to it.” As told by Mark Chesnutt, the song does have quite a story. Isn’t it so true about how a sad song can make you cry? Or nostalgically bring back a memory of an old flame?  Or, as in this song’s case, inflict pain?

So what’s one to do if you’re in Margie’s Bar and hear that mournful song that makes you break out in a cold sweat and sends a teardrop down your nose? I wouldn’t recommend doing what Bubba did … jumped to his feet, went to his truck and got a Colt .45. The song’s plot only thickens when the sheriff arrives with his bathrobe on. I’m not going to give away the punch line (the “hook” as they call it in the music business).  You’re just going to have to listen to the song to find out what Bubba Boy is charged with, and what his response is.   

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jukebox: Jukebox Jive

  In late '74, you could get away with wearing leisure suits, open collared shirts and cloth caps onstage if, and only if, you were one of the five members of The Rubettes, the 50's nostalgia obsessed contemporaries of UK Glam rock acts like Mud, Slade and Sweet. Sure it's lightweight fluff, but the band hit #3 with this single (and #1 with their debut single "Sugar Baby Love"). So doff your cap to the lads!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Jukeboxes and country music seem to fit together like hats 'n' boots, cowboy that is, and the repertoire is full of odes to the loose change plunged into every truck stop Rock-ola. On my side of the sea, there has been a slightly perverse relation with this genre generally, there always being a hardcore of, usually, elderly line-dancers, dressing for Texas whilst dancing in Teeside. These are the fans of what I call "and western" and are probably best avoided. However, there has always been a healthy appetite for a more straight ahead country. Or country rock, if you will, and I was drawn into this brotherhood in my mid-teens. This is decades before or americana and within this fiercely partisan crowd, Sweetheart era Byrds were the Beatles, with the Flying Burrito Brothers being, clearly, with the Keef'n'Gram bond, the Stones. (Think of Gram being in both bands as like the Stones first UK hit being by Lennon-McCartney, as it was! OK, and Hillman, and Clarke, but you get my point.) New Riders of the Purple Sage, I suppose, fitted those outre types maybe drawn to the Kinks, whilst the out and out weirdos gravitated to Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. I loved 'em all, and still do, but my heart was with the last, my affection for whom I have previously drawn in these pages. And, boy, did they know truckstops!

         "Well I stopped at a road house in Texas a little place called Hamburger Dan's
         Heard that old jukebox start playing tune called the Truck Drivin' Man
         The waitress then brought me up some coffee
         I thanked her then called her back again
         I said that old song sure does fit me cause I'm a truck drivin' man
         Pour me another cup of coffee for it is the best in the land
         I put a nickel in the jukebox and play the Truck Drivin' Man"

This is the song, and it's an old one, written by a Terry Fell in 1954, though it was the 1965 version by Fells then band member, Buck Owens, that first hit a wider audience, albeit with a quarter than a nickel. But it was on the Airmen's 2nd, the fabulously entitled "Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers Favourites" that I first came across it, it being my highlight of the disc, with the later pleasure of seeing them performing live in London cementing my eternal allegiance. What, of course, I had never earlier realised was that Billy C. Farlowe, guitar toting front man, wasn't actually plugged in for anything beyond his top-notch vocals, his red guitar being merely a prop. Mind you, with Bill Kirchen twanging ferociously behind, who could ever be disappointed? It's a straight ahead vers chorus vers chorus song, nothing fancy, but with the astonishing instrumental breaks between each and every refrain, with especial mention, always, to Bobby "Blue" Black on consummate pedal steel. Here it is, from, whisper, near 43 years ago. Gulp.

Buy the LP!

And, by way of a special treat, here is a version by the New Riders, a live on from, gulp again, 1972. At the time of writing both bands, or versions thereof, are still on the road.

Download the track!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Jukebox: Jukebox On My Grave

From the stock of Maine potato farmers, Ellis Paul moved to Boston, studied music, connected with the folk genre, then developed a signature singer/songwriter sound incorporating pop, rock and contemporary stylings. Ellis Paul's wise perceptiveness and charisma have built him a strong fan base. He's also a hardworking, resilient touring artist who has garnered numerous awards for at least a dozen album releases and music, some featured in soundtracks for the films, Shallow Hal and Me, Myself, & Irene.

In 2005, "American Jukebox Fables" was Ellis' first solo CD since 2002's "The Speed of Trees." His voice has character, and his songs understand the bond between land, life, heart and soul. I think he chose that as the title for his CD because it has considerable variety much like a jukebox would, and Paul is definitely a storyteller. 

The CD begins on an up-tempo note, but Ellis can also create an intimate and familiar feeling with songs like "Time" and "Goodbye Hollywood." Keyboards and percussion provide the primary instrumental excitement that serve to increase the emotional impact of his material. Ellis possesses all the fundamental elements for success as a singer/songwriter. His messages are profound, and they make us think. 

"Jukebox On My Grave" leaves us with his simple wish to mark the music man's final resting place. His jukebox songs also reference some of his influences - Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Rolling Stones, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, and others. It takes a lot of imagination and skill to be both polished and fanciful all in one. Ellis Paul shows us how to do it in a distinctive, masterful fashion. 

I notice that the album’s cut of this song mentioned Johnny Cash “singing Ring of Fire upon my grave,” but the video linked above references the song “Boy Named Sue” instead. Perhaps Ellis Paul had second thoughts about Johnny singing “I went down, down, down as the flames went higher” upon his grave. 

In any case, it‘s a noble, auspicious thought to want a jukebox on one’s grave after you’re gone. I wouldn’t mind having a music machine six feet above me, and I'd even bequeath each of my friends a few rolls of quarters to keep the music coming. We don’t need tears or headstones, but music will keep memories vivid.  As Ellis Paul sings,

And all my friends, when they drop by,
can drop a quarter down,
and hear Robert Johnson's cry.
A flood of memories,
come wave by wave,
carried by the voice,
inside the jukebox,
on my grave.

You can hear Hank Williams,
and some George Jones,
some Beatles songs,
a little Dylan,
some Rolling Stones,
Joni Mitchell and Marvin Gaye,
and Johnny Cash he’s risen,
from the ashes on my grave, my grave.
That's Johnny Cash there,
singing "Boy Named Sue" upon my grave.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jukebox: I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll)

Nick Lowe: I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll)

I’m pretty sure that Elvis Costello was my gateway drug to Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Rockpile. I suspect that I started exploring Lowe’s music very early into my WPRB career as a result of seeing that he had produced Costello’s (and Graham Parker’s) early albums. Of course, Pure Pop for Now People was genius. I can’t recall exactly when I connected up Dave Edmunds, or where I found out that essentially all of the Lowe and Edmunds albums were really just releases by a band called Rockpile that couldn’t record under that name for some contractual reason. But I do remember playing their music over and over. Ask my roommates. At that time, it did seem a bit odd—Lowe was considered part of the new wave movement, although his records in those days were more power pop, and Edmunds sounded like a throwback to Sun Records and rockabilly. In retrospect, all of this was part of an attempt by musicians to get back to their roots, simplify things and strip down the sound, as a reaction to what was seen as the excesses of the Classic Rock Age of the Dinosaurs. At times in their careers, though, both Lowe and Edmunds fell prey to the apparent requirement that musicians who start simple, but record for a long time, have to experiment with adding layers of instruments, effects and sound.

“I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll)” is a fun song, in which the singer, somewhat wistfully, discusses how he remembers when the bride at issue, who is now all posh and proper, and marrying a rich stuffed shirt, used to hang out in her jeans at the bar, drinking and flirting and dancing and having fun. And, because our theme is Jukebox, it is important that she was always “Pumping all her money in the record machine.”

The first version of the song was released in 1977 by Edmunds on his Get It album, and it is a typically rootsy rocker. (Edmunds’ next disc, Tracks on Wax 4 featured a song called “A.1. on the Jukebox,” by the way.)

But my favorite version is the one downloadable above which came out a year later, on the Live Stiffs album, from a Stiff Records European tour that also featured Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric, and Larry Wallis. Billed to “Nick Lowe's Last Chicken in the Shop” (although introduced at the show as “Nick Lowe’s Led Zeppelin”), which included Edmunds on guitar and Rockpile’s drummer Terry Williams, drummer Pete Thomas from the Attractions and others, they rip through the song in a messy, 70’s punk way.

It appears that when Rockpile appeared live, though, they kind of split the difference in versions—there’s both punk and twang in this version from 1980:

I remember reading once that Lowe said that he was going to keep releasing this song until it became a hit, and in 1985 he tried again, with very dated sounding production by Huey Lewis, who also plays the harmonica and sings background. (Lewis’ early band, Clover, was brought to England by Lowe, and achieved little success there, although its members, minus Lewis, but including future Doobie Brother John McFee, were the backup band on Elvis Costello’s Lowe-produced debut, My Aim is True).

I’ve kind of lost track of Edmunds’ career over the past few years, but Lowe had reinvented himself again as sort of a crooner. And yes, he still drags out this old tune to play, despite the fact that (or maybe because) it is hard to find a “record machine” anywhere. Although he now plays it with more of Edmunds’ rockabilly tinged sound than his Stiffs Live energy.

It’s still not a hit, but it was covered by The Knack.