Saturday, December 5, 2020

No, Thanks: "No-no Song", by Ringo Starr

Purchase "No-no Song" by Ringo Starr

2020 brought a lot to bear, not the least being a real challenge to sobriety. When there's nothing to do, getting drunk in the dark of my cave-like home office with something mindless streaming through the Netflix tractor beam was often the highlight of the day. Memes and internet jokes about happy hour being pretty much any hour of the day abound. Still.

Because this shit is far from over. 

Taking a break from the news, from the social media doom scroll, and from the living room couch are all important steps to recovery. So, is laying off the booze and hiding the keys to the liquor cabinet. Seems like the sober-er times of 2020 are the times I'll most want to forget. There really hasn't been anything much in the way of redeeming when it comes to the past year. Save for music, which even in the best of times, is a key to happiness.

I know highballs and new tunes were a balm in this dark year. But, like all good things, in moderation we trust. Because 2020 feels a lot like a hangover that won't fade.

This track from Ringo's 1974 Goodnight Vienna is a fun little reggae-esque romp about getting sober. Given the prodigious amount of chemical experimentation of the Beatles' later years, and lack of lingering damage it caused, in comparison to many of their contemporaries, "No-no Song" comes off as more than just another silly Ringo tune. ("Octopus Gardens," anyone?  "Yellow Submarine?" ) This song has the feel that it was meant to be a lark, but took on a more realistic sense the more it got played. Ringo always struck as the most whacked out of the Beatles, to be honest. But, here in "No-no Song," he seems to be striking a sober chord, if only because he's tired of waking up on the floor. How serious he is depends on how much you want to see the song as ironic. It was written by Hoyt Axton, famous cowboy singer and actor, who had also struggled with sobriety and drug use in his life. And Ringo was far from sober at the time of the recording. In an interview with Time magazine, he claimed that he and Axton recorded the song "...with the biggest spliff and a large bottle of Jack Daniel's." 

I suppose, reading too much into the song is a mistake. It is kind of funny, in it's escalation of peer pressures and continuous inebriation. But, maybe it's just supposed to ironic, like it's ironic when we wake up from a bender and say, "I'm never doing that again..." 

Irony, for sure. But, then this is 2020 and we've got a premium on irony. Filled to very top with it. Looking back, all this was predictable. Preventable. And looking forward, we'll look back on this and just shake our heads in angry, rueful hindsight at what could have been.

In the meantime, we've still got time to listen to good music. The bottle and whether the cap stays on, or comes off, once again, is another question. We can always so "no-no" in the future. Let's get through the next few months first. And hope for better days to come. 

Here's a bit more countrified version of "No-no Song" with the first All-Starr Band, which looks a lot like the E Street Band...

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