Friday, August 14, 2009

Sounds Like Walking or Running

The Crystals, many years after recording Da Doo Ron Ron

There are certain songs that, owing to that bizarre alchemical process known as "record production" produce in me a physical desire to not dance, but to move forward somehow - usually run, sometimes just walk and skip a bit - but propel my body forward. In the case of these two songs, I've managed to narrow it down to two elements - piano arpeggios and tympani. Although none of Philip Glass' compositions produce the same effect, so maybe I'm off-base. Or is it just that one song mentions walking specifically, and in the other, "ron ron" could be misheard as "run run?"

The Crystals' Da Doo Ron Ron is a lovely bit of nonsense written by song-writing duo Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich and produced by Phil Spector. You know it, no doubt.

I first heard (Walkin' Thru The) Sleepy City on Metamorphosis, a spectacular collection of Rolling Stones' singles, demos and b-sides from their early career under the tutulage of Andrew Loog Oldham that's frequently spotted at used record stores and well worth the $3 or so one has to put down to own it. Some of the songs on the collection recorded as demos to be shopped around to other groups, and such is the case with this one. The Mighty Avengers (or their producer) foolishly decided to bury the piano in the mix, and there's a naivety in the vocals that pales in comparison to the y'know, transcendent snarl & knowingness of Mr. Jagger in the Rolling Stones' version. (Another similar sounding song worth your time in the collection is I'd Much Rather Be With the Boys)

So, is it just the title then that compels me to walk or run? Let's see. Here we have two songs with the same title that are vastly different in terms of subject matter. The Supremes' Run, Run, Run is a strangely off song written for the group by Motown's sweetest song-writing trio Holland-Dozier-Holland in 1964 that resulted in a dismal chart-showing. The Velvet Underground's Run, Run, Run performed even more dismally on the charts, of course, although at this juncture it's the more well-known of the two. Neither of these songs make me want to move much.

Your step-father, before he met your mother...

There's an unrepeatable story that explains the ubiquitous use of the term "Night Moves" amongst my friends, but like most inside jokes and small infants in the wild, it wouldn't last very long out of the watchful eyes of its creators. And it's not that much easier to speak about one of Detroit's many favourite journeyman musicians Bob Seger, either. His name brings up images of an earnest and bearded man who was never as cool as Bruce Springsteen nor as unbearable as John Cougar Mellancamp, but occupied a similar niche for men of a certain age, of a certain class, and probably a certain type of beer, too. (Is that why his backing band is called the Silver Bullet Band?) Step-father rock, but not Steve Earle.

So, I'll talk about the song, despite the salacious and entirely unwholesome imagery and memories the phrase conjurs up in my mind, this song is a soft and endearing bit of roots rock with piano that recalls The Band or alternately predicts Bruce Hornsby's playing on The Way It Is, more than the honky tonking it was probably intended to recall. So, for all of you working men & working men's offspring, who will be finishing their work late this evening, after hoisting bails of hay or tool-boxes or hefty grant applications, this is an appropriate song for which to end the working day, allowing you to segue into more ironic and rocking territory before hoisting bottles of beers to your weary, bearded faces. Oh shit, this is a song about one night stands? Weird.

No comments: