Lover Of The Bayou

It’s hard to hate Tom Petty, but he hasn’t done anything truly memorable since "Mary Jane’s Last Dance". And that was TRULY memorable. Which is why I always give his new stuff a chance. But somewhere along the line, he became self-conscious, at times even precious, and his music has suffered. But the fact that Mudcrutch was a lark, the album written and recorded so quickly, made me want to check it out.

By time David Crosby and Chris Hillman were gone, those in the know had given up on the Byrds. It was just Jim/Roger McGuinn running on fumes. So, when Muddy Waters at the end of Hepburn Hall my freshman year at Middlebury purchased "Untitled", I laughed on the inside. Hadn’t he gotten the memo? But there was this one song that emanated from his room, "Chestnut Mare"… And then the reviews started to come in, saying the album was a return to form. Then, Clarence White, the superlative new guitarist, was cut down by an automobile after a gig and Roger McGuinn didn’t get another slice of fame until he participated in Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review. Is that where he met Jacques Levy?

No, in this case, the influence went in reverse. Roger met Jacques first. Or at least used him first. Jacques wrote the lyrics for "Chestnut Mare" and…"Lover Of The Bayou".

I only found this out the other day, when I fired up Petty’s cover. Not that I knew it was a cover at first. I was entranced by that classic guitar figure. The performance was almost garage rock. I was getting in the groove. Had Petty come back? Then, when they reached the line: "I’m a lover of the bayou", I realized I’d heard this before.

Minor research told me it had been done by the Byrds. But WHEN?

The first white act I remember mentioning the bayou was John Fogerty, singing about being born on the bayou (and that’s my favorite Creedence track… "And I can remember the fourth of July, runnin’ through the backwood bare"… Fucking record SOUNDS like it was cut on the bayou!) I didn’t remember Roger McGuinn singing about the bayou… And to do it after Fogerty seemed kind of lame…

So I fired up my P2P program and downloaded the original. Yes, I remember this, from UNTITLED! Funny how you know the tracks from records you never owned. Maybe I remember this wafting from Muddy’s room, maybe they played it a bit on FM, but I certainly KNOW IT!

And there are two takes. At least on the two disc reissue. And the alternate take kills. It’s the blueprint for Mudcrutch’s cover.

Funny, they must have played and debated "Untitled" back in the group home, back in the midseventies, when we sat around and listened to records as opposed to watching TV, when our truth was embodied on vinyl, not pixels on a screen.

The Mudcrutch take starts with…CRICKETS? Seems like it to me, straight from the bayou. And then the guitar has got that unfiltered straight from the amp sound all the bands used in the seventies, when it was about turning it up more than effects. Meanwhile, a lead guitar starts dancing in between the notes, and then Petty starts to sing…

Catfish pie in a gris-gris bag
I’m the lover of the bayou

Petty’s SNEERING! If you didn’t know he was rich and lived in Malibu, you’d think this was someone who needed to make it, who was displaying his ATTITUDE!

Meanwhile, every minute or so, there’s an instrumental break, and the guitars SOAR! Reflecting back on when every teenager picked up a Fender as opposed to a drum machine, when the goal was to stand at the end of the stage, look into the sky and WAIL as opposed to rap about your life in the suburbs.

Back before clubs meant records and dancing, when drinking establishments meant live music, the alcohol loosened you up, the music soothed you, there was no place you’d rather be.

Check out Benmont’s piano part at the end too.

Pure seventies. Pure magic.

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  1. Pingback by Bob Lefsetz on Tom Petty and Mudcrutch | 2008/04/30 at 15:40:02

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    One of the loudest men on the internet, Bob Lefsetz recently penned a couple of pieces relating to the new Mudcrutch CD, which […]


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  1. Pingback by Bob Lefsetz on Tom Petty and Mudcrutch | 2008/04/30 at 15:40:02

    […] iddot; No Comments

    One of the loudest men on the internet, Bob Lefsetz recently penned a couple of pieces relating to the new Mudcrutch CD, which […]

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