Friday, September 13, 2019


All the same thing, aren't they? All have hooves and tails, and the why-the-long-faces, so, yes, they must be. OK, I know, they aren't, but can you all recall the differences? I will assume that you know horses, the odd-toed ungulate mammal, whether cart, race or just a plain old Dobbin, so, moving swiftly on......

Jenny's Got a Pony/Los Lobos

I haven't a clue what this song, by the always excellent Los Lobos, could possibly be about. Is there much of a pony population in East L.A.? Anyhow, this riveting ride, SWIDT, comes from their 1990 opus, 'The Neighbourhood', showing off their best, a fusion of latino, tex-mex and plain good old rock'n'roll. Ponies are horses, in fact, the delineation tending to relate to smaller sizes of beast. Whilst clearly there are tiny ones, whether your steed is a horse or a pony is often as much in the eye of the beholder. In slang a pony might be a small amount of liquor. Is that what Jenny got? Alternatively,  in my country a pony is £25, increasingly equal to $25.

Donkey Town/Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris

Donkeys are not horses, but are very close. I think they look cuter but traditionally have tended more to be more beasts of burden than for racing. And to be the butt of many an insult, the derogatory opinion being that donkeys are for peasants, horses being only fit for the higher echelons. Hence, I guess, this song, from the, at the time, critically underacclaimed album of duets, Knopfler imagining himself, yeah, right, as a loser in a one horse, sorry, donkey town. If Emmylou were there, chum, I'd stay.

Muleskinner Blues/The Cramps

This is where it all gets a bit surreal, as I explain a muleskinner is ahead of a mule. And, until today, I had the notion that the pelt of a mule might be a useful commodity. Good leather or something like that. Wrongity-wrong, it is the human handler of a mule or a set of mules. So called as you had to be quick witted to outsmart them, or "outskin" them, me, neither, given their stubbornness. No wonder they got the blues, the song originally a hit for Jimmie Rodgers in the 30s, before the Cramps gave it a reverential kick up the, um, ass. We don't feature the late lamented Cramps here enough, I feel. 

A mule is the sterile progeny of when a horse, or pony, mates with a donkey, the genetics close enough to procreate but not close enough to prolong the line further. It seems a bit of a long way to go for a somewhat short end to me. But, mule lovers, worry not, they can now be cloned. Mule is also slang for the middle man in a drugs heist, responsible for transporting the illicit material across county lines and continents, often, literally, in their "middles". Why the name? Presumably as such individuals are seen as slow witted carriers of little importance beyond the carriage of the goods. Confusingly, what they carry may often go by the slang of horse. Or, perhaps in a sly dig at its retrieval, shit.

Jack Ass/Beck

Here's where I could get myself into trouble, as in get my ass kicked, mixing and muddling my homonyms. But, I will resist that temptation and stick to the literal, wherein Beck Hansen compares his situation to that of a Jack, or male, Ass, or donkey, the two terms being near equivalent. (See horse/pony). So it is really back to Mark Knopfler and his donkey town, self-esteem apparently quite a rare premium for worldwide superstars. But, in recompense for reading this far, I can't but leave you without just a little horseplay...... (Spoiler: twerk free; have you ever typed ass into youtube?)

Get Off Your Ass and Jam/Funkadelic

Pony, donkey, mule, ass (or ass.)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Horse/s: Rocking Horse

purchase [ ABB Rocking Horse  ]

In some ways, this could have slipped into the <Slide> theme - slide being a forte of the Allman Brothers since their inception.

The Allman Brothers Band has been around for a number of years in one iteration or another. Among their other contributions to music, there is the off-shoot band named Gov't Mule, formed by Warren Haynes, a later addition to the ABB.  Haynes is stage center in the above clip doing the vocals, and might also note Allen Woody, who also joined the ABB when they reunited in the late 80s.

Since the current theme is <Horse> and this post references <Rocking Horse> it wouldn't hurt to take a minute to look down that path: What it is, what it represents/means...
>> A wooden construction that simulates a real horse that you can mount and "ride"

I can think of a number of "rocking" associations that might fit.
Foremost is "rock" .. and you can work your way on down the path of what "rock" embodies on your own.
I guess I can also conjure up images of why you might associate horses within the realm of rock.

The lyrics tell a typical ABB story: on a path that isn't so good and that I just can't leave: "to die in the saddle must be my destiny"

There are different such of possible interest:

Sara Evans with a song of the same name but kinda different

Gov't Mule:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Horse/s: The Horse

Cliff Nobles and Co. : The Horse

If you have attended or watched a sporting event in the United States in the last few decades, you almost certainly have heard the marching or pep band play “The Horse,” the 1968 instrumental hit single from Cliff Nobles and Co. (I know that I played it at least twice as a member of the Princeton University Marching Band, which, by the way, is celebrating its 100th year of having invented the football marching band, only 50 years after Princeton and Rutgers invented college football.) And, there’s a chance that you might have heard the original, horn-filled song on the radio, or streaming, or however you consume music. But what you didn’t hear was Cliff Nobles. Because Cliff was the vocalist in the band, and “The Horse” is an instrumental.

According to Bobby Eli, guitarist on the track, he, guitarist Norman Harris, bassist Ronnie Baker, and drummer Earl Young created the music jamming in the studio—in fact, neither Nobles, nor Jesse James, the producer who took writing credit, were present in the studio at the time.

“The Horse” was released as the B-side to the single “Love is All Right,” which is essentially the same song, but with Nobles’ fine soul vocals. I have to admit to never having heard that version until I started writing this, and it stands on its own. But, for whatever reason, it was the stirring, if somewhat repetitive, instrumental that piqued the interest of DJs, and it peaked at No. 2 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts, before becoming often used as a theme song, or in stadiums and arenas.

The musicians that created and recorded “The Horse” received only a small fee, and producer/”writer” James refused to give them any more, leading to an acrimonious split. Eli, Harris, Baker and Young became part of the “MFSB” collective, who backed many, many groups, and had a hit of their own with “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” and Baker, Harris and Young were also members of The Trammps. The baritone sax player was Mike Terry, who also played on, among other things, Martha and the Vandellas' “Heat Wave,” and The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go,” and as a member of the Funk Brothers, he performed on thousands of Motown recordings from 1960-1967.

Despite his obvious talents, Nobles never sang on a hit song, and later worked in construction and the electronic generation industry, which is ironic, since “The Horse” is used to generate energy at sporting events (is that too tenuous a connection?)

Over at Cover Me, I wrote a piece defending Dexy’s Midnight Runners, which discussed their excellent covers of both “The Horse” and “TSOP.” (I wrote another defense of them here, too, but it wasn’t as good).

Sunday, September 8, 2019


Country music has always had a chequered history over here in the UK, there being an understandable suspicion of the more rhinestones and bouffant hair variety that, for so many years, gave even the genre a bad name outside its immediate milieu. Personally it was always the 'and western' that put me off, only many years coming to know and love quite what that might mean, as in western swing. But country-rock, or perhaps as we now should call it, americana, that's a whole different plate of beans. Us brits have taken to that in a big way, both in terms of growing our own and offering a sometimes more sympathetic audience to visitors as they get at home. Todays piece is decidedly too old for americana, being from the early 70s, when bands like Cochise and Starry Eyed and Laughing were adding influences culled from The Byrds and the Burritos.  The pre-punk of pub-rock, the early backlash to the some of the preposterousnesses of prog, saw also a lot of country tropes mixed into the pot, alongside soul and straight ahead rock'n'roll. Brinsley Schwarz, an early home for Nick Lowe, and Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers were frontrunners, influentially if not necessarily in sales. Nowadays there are as many gritty blue collar banjo and steel bands over here as, well, in a short Nashville street. So a few, my favourites being Camden's Rockingbirds. Plus several festivals devoted to the genre.

Home had only a brief window. Resolutely 3rd tier in terms of attainment and success, famous as much for where the members went next as in their own right. The track above comes from their 1971 debut, the sleeve illustration giving a fair idea of where they were hailing from and striving at. I actually bought this at the time, it various surviving culls on my collection, as history re-decided my earlier tastes. However there was clearly a hint of something, the twin guitars of Laurie Wiseman and Mick Stubbs soaring higher than the journeyman songs and vocals, mainly provided by Stubbs.  Bass was provided by one Cliff Williams, yes, that one, and was more adventurous, say, than his later job, with drums and background keys courtesy Mick Cook and Clive John.

A second record followed, the eponymous 'Home', by which time they had ditched John and ploughed, generally, a yet more earnest west coast vibe, if more Outlaws than Eagles, winning over fans from the bands they played support to. But those fans weren't putting their hands in their pockets, and the moment called for a prog-rock concept album, echoing similar bands in similar circumstances, Camel and Wishbone Ash, last gasps of the longhairs before punk blew down the doors. (Of course, history also reminds us that the longhairs never actually went away, just having shorter hair and shorter songs, most continuing to this day.) The Alchemist was the 3rd and last album put together by Home. Stylistically different, it isn't all bad, if desperately dated.

Stubbs left and the remainder of the band toured as Al Stewart's backing band, before going their separate ways. Wisefield joined, arguably appropriately, his guitar style being eminently suitable, the above mentioned Wishbone Ash, Cook joined the Groundhogs and, earlier keyboards man, John was by now with Man. Stubbs, surprisingly, as the songsmith and singer, or possibly because of that, struggled the most, largely disappearing from view. The big ticket fell to Williams, filling the AC/DC bassist role for the next 39 years. A waste of his talent, IMHO, but what do I know, as his accountant might remind me.


The early 70s were a bumper time for would be jobbing musicians, record companies falling over each other to give multi-disc contracts to barely out of school buskers, allowing them to build up their skills, hone any talents and, eventually, or so the labels hoped, repay the investment. Bands like Home were everywhere, chock full of musicians often later making a greater inroads elsewhere. Often with back catalogues mostly forgotten, I enjoy looking back and remembering. This piece began musing on country and english. Funny how it seems to have ended elsewhere.