The Cuckoo

Speaking of satellite radio…

I was driving to KLSX Sunday night and I was listening to XM’s folk channel. And what came out of the speakers of my automobile had none of the immediacy of Britney or Beyonce, none of the in-your-face manipulation of Fall Out Boy, only an honesty I recognized, that I treasured way back when, before I knew there was a "Billboard", when you built a collection based on record credits, friends’ recommendations and magazine reviews. And the resulting body of work, it was your Prozac, it was the antidepressant that got you through, but more than that, this music made life worth LIVING!

The shows weren’t extravaganzas, and they weren’t expensive. Music was like milk, a daily exercise. You discussed music like cars or computers today. It was the most important element of your life.

One of the great images you got researching your favorite subject was the picture of late teens and twentysomethings overseas listening to delta blues records. Ordering them by mail, playing them again and again, getting the riffs down, and then being inspired to create classic rock.

And it’s this magic, this great tradition, that gets today’s youngsters to tune in. It’s all part of a continuum, not a here today gone tomorrow hula-hoop, this music has meaning.

So I’m pulling up to the parking lot, and this guy is picking an acoustic guitar, and singing as if the story is more important than the fame.

And he never got much fame. But he drank himself to death in the process of trying, to get bigger, to spread the word.

He was in a band when one was no longer needed. Clapton went solo not long after Taste launched.

He had the world’s shittiest label in the U.S. Polydor was even worse than RCA. But this guy had talent, this guy could PLAY!

Those old delta blues musicians. They didn’t do it for the money. THERE WASN’T ANY! Maybe for the lifestyle. Playing all night, getting high, chasing women. But so many had day jobs. The blues was their story. What is Justin Timberlake’s story? Mouseketeer follows trends to stay in the public eye to get rich? Nothing inherently wrong with that, but there’s just not any humanity, no meaning.

Music has become mass ritual. You bump bodies to it in clubs. You go to arena shows for events more akin to movies than music. Music is oftentimes an aural assault, not a warm piece of bread, delivering happiness to your nose, radiating warmth to your insides, keeping you going. But this Rory Gallagher acoustic number, "The Cuckoo"…THIS is sustenance. It was just me and Rory in the car. I felt no different from lying on my bed listening to records in college.

I saw Rory live, with Taste, opening for Blind Faith. My friend John Hughes burned "Laundromat" into my brain. Still, "The Cuckoo" is new to me, the same way "Stairway To Heaven" is to a fifteen year old. With the same ethereal effect.

But there’s majesty in that Led Zeppelin track. There’s no majesty in "The Cuckoo". Just an itinerant soul, telling a tale before he moves on to the next town.

Rory Gallagher has moved beyond the next burg. He’s TRULY gone underground. He’s dead and buried. But like the great delta bluesmen, his work lives on.

Clive Davis would say the song needs tweaking, he’d add production. Lyor Cohen would propose having one of his charges rap in the middle. Charlie Walk would talk about turning it into a duet, with Wyclef, and broadcasting a video on V Cast. Jimmy Iovine would say it’s great, but wouldn’t sign it, because who needs a journeyman with bumps on both his face and his career?

But the listener. The listener would hear the raw, unadulterated track and EXULT! Bathing in the honesty and the immediacy.

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