So I’m talking with an old buddy and he tells me he really likes the Doobie Brothers.

I told him I used to hate them, but now I love them! My favorite track used to be "Neal’s Fandango", but now, it’s "Another Park, Another Sunday". And this got me to thinking…what other songs have "park" in the title?

"Another Park, Another Sunday"
The Doobie Brothers

This was the initial single from "What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits", the follow-up to the monstrous "The Captain and Me". But it was a relative dud, the album never gained momentum, it was dead in the water until suddenly a deejay made "Black Water" a huge hit.

So, I’ve always looked askance at this track, it almost doomed what ultimately is the best Doobie Brothers album. And if you don’t like the Doobie Brothers, you’re a snob with a skinny tie who believes if something goes mainstream, it can’t be good.

The acoustic guitar intro is so inviting, it makes you feel all warm inside.

And Tom Johnston has one of the great, unheralded voices in rock. If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were run by open-minded Californians instead of close-minded easterners, the Doobies would be in.

Ultimately "Another Park, Another Sunday" is a road song. But it doesn’t have that self-centered rock star feel.

I’m sittin’ in the room
Starin’ out the window
And I wonder where you’ve gone
Thinking back on the happy hours just before the dawn
Outside the wind is blowin’
It seems to call your name again
Where have you gone

You’re no longer here! You were just with me, between the sheets, and now I’m all alone. Your absence is intolerable.

City streets and lonely highways I travel down
My car is empty and the radio just seems to bring me down

Whew! That’s when I know when I’m in a terrible mood. Not only does nothing sound good, just hearing music in my car bums me out.

Another lonely park, another Sunday
Why is it life turns out that way
Just when you think you got a good thing
It seems to slip away

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH! We hear this sentiment expressed incessantly. But somehow, the Doobies make it sound new. It’s just terrible how things slip through your fingers, just after you relax and believe you have them firmly in your grasp.

But the piece de resistance is the bridge:

It’s warm outside, no clouds are in the sky
But I need myself a place to go and hide
I keep it to myself
Don’t want nobody else
To see me cryin’ all these tears in my eyes

It’s a beautiful day, but you feel so damn awful! You don’t want to bring anybody else down, you don’t want to tell your sob story, you just want to be alone until this horrible feeling goes away.

Ain’t that the human condition.

"Saturday In The Park"

A great piano intro. A great horn part. A great vocal. Still, one can argue the only real Chicago is CTA, the Chicago Transit Authority, before they shortened their name, when they made that incredible double album debut.

Still, this track has a hooky chorus.

And the break hearkens back to that original package.

All the elements are here, but this song is not a classic, but fodder.

"Cinnamon Park"
Jill Sobule

Sure, she had a hit, which will have to wait another ten years for the Katy Perry song with the same title to fade before it resurfaces, but Jill Sobule has been unjustly overlooked. She’s talented, she’s clever, you’ll like this.

"Cherry Hill Park
Billy Joe Royal

The smash was "Down In The Boondocks". Listen to it, it’s just as intimate and affecting today.

"Cherry Hill Park" only made it to number 15.

But, fascinatingly, it was written by Robert Nix and Billy Gilmore. And was arranged by Buddy Buie, James Cobb and Emory Gordy, Jr.

In other words, this is the Atlanta Mafia which surfaced with the Classics IV and ended up being the Atlanta Rhythm Section, which ultimately succeeded with ballads, but could rock as hard and well as the Allmans but were burdened by being on Polydor, check out "Another Man’s Woman"!

"Amusement Parks U.S.A."
The Beach Boys

Sure, we were aware Brian Wilson has been affected by the passage of time, but who knew Mike Love’s voice had faded?

In other words, don’t confuse that amalgamation of old men on the Grammy telecast with the original Beach Boys, who were valid rivals for the Beatles and the Stones.

And despite all the hoopla about "Pet Sounds", my favorite album is "Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)"

It contains "California Girls". And that’s enough.

But it also contains "Girl Don’t Tell Me", which could be my favorite Beach Boys song EVER!

"California Girls" is on the second side, but the first side is stronger. Even the cover of "Then I Kissed Her" works.

We’ve got the definitive version of "Help Me, Rhonda", the one on "The Beach Boys Today"! was the blueprint, this one had punch, it was the single.

And when I do a cities playlist I’m gonna mention "Salt Lake City", I love it!

And this cheerful take-off on "Palisades Park" may not feel like being at an amusement park, but it’s an aural tour of the great parks of America in a pre-Internet era where we couldn’t just go online and check out the roller coasters. It opened our minds, it made us want to go.

And Brian’s vocal is INCREDIBLE!

Actually, it’s a great melding of both Mike and Brian. Before the big discord. If only we could experience this magic live this summer…

"Palisades Park"
Freddy Cannon

Do youngsters know this? A runaway classic?

The Beach Boys even covered this, not so well, on "15 Big Ones", their 1976 comeback album.

Jan & Dean did a better cover years before.

But even the Ramones took a whack at it.

But the best cover could be by Shelley Fabares!

The James Gang

Somehow, Joe Walsh has become the clown, the fact that he is an incredible guitar player resides in the backseat.

But when we had no idea who these players really were, before the oversaturation of media, Joe blew our minds in the James Gang.

My favorite is still the debut, "Yer’ Album". Where Joe not only plays guitar, but keyboards, and writes too. But it was the second album that broke them big. Every baby boomer knows "Funk #49". And my favorite cut is "Ashes, the Rain and I", but if you want to hear guitar fluidity without showing off, just in the pocket rock and roll, listen to "Asshtonpark", the effect will have you believe you’re high on drugs, even if you’re not.

"Itchycoo Park"
The Small Faces

What did you do there?

I had to buy the single, and I was definitely an album guy.

What did Ahmet say? A hit is a song you hear on the radio after midnight that makes you get out of bed, take off your pajamas, put on your street clothes and go to the all night record shop to buy?


I couldn’t wait for it to come on the radio. I needed to OWN "Itchycoo Park". An under three minute masterpiece.

It began like a folk song. But then, the longer you listened, it metamorphosed into a rocker…this was the same Steve Marriott who ultimately screamed in Humble Pie!

And the chorus sounded like it came from outer space. What Judy Jetson would be listening to if she were three-dimensional and at the club.

Then there’s the magic bridge that puts the track over the top, with the phased effects and the repetitive outro, you sit there in amazement, wondering…HOW DID THEY COME UP WITH THIS STUFF?

Wannabes can’t make "Itchycoo Park" in GarageBand. Not a single "American Idol" contestant could write it. The problem with music today is we shoot too low.

But when someone shoots high and hits…WE SWOON!


"The Rain, The Park And Other Things"
The Cowsills

Who wouldn’t hate a singing family? Especially if they were white? Could you imagine forming a group with your brothers and sisters? UGH!

And they never had another hit. But all these years later I can enjoy this. Sure, it sounds sugary. But I’ll admit the track has hooks.

"MacArthur Park"
Richard Harris

I HATED THIS! It lasted in excess of seven minutes, it was interminable, it made no sense, the whole bit with the cake being left out in the rain…ECCH! Furthermore, it was sung by a damn ACTOR!

Then Donna Summer covered it…

And I didn’t really like it then either. This was before Donna traded disco for rock, or shall I say melded the two, on "Bad Girls", and I finally got it.

And somewhere along the line, I finally got "MacArthur Park". Maybe it was after moving to Los Angeles and going to law school right nearby. Yes, there really is a "MacArthur Park". That’s one of the things I love about L.A., the living history, all the musical references come alive.

But I really think the turning point was realizing how great an actor Richard Harris truly was, hearing him tell stories on late night TV, I found out he was far from pompous, he was someone I’d like to have a drink with.

And Richard did drink… I wish he was still here today. He’s someone I’d love to meet… No, someone I’d like to HANG WITH!

Still, let’s credit the true genius…the composer, Jimmy Webb.

How did he come up with this? Like Freddie Mercury years later with "Bohemian Rhapsody", he was willing to take a chance.

We reward and remember those who test limits, who go so far out it takes years for us to recognize their greatness. Hell, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is bigger today than it ever was when it was released as part of "A Night at the Opera"…it’s in our cultural DNA. And so is "MacArthur Park".

"4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"
Bruce Springsteen

I’d like Bruce Springsteen to lose his wife, kids and fans. I’d like to see him broke, ignored and maybe abused down at the boardwalk. Then, maybe he could write something as magical as "4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" once again.

Bob Dylan solved this problem. He keeps his fans at arm’s length. Whereas it’s a constant love-in with Springsteen, a guy these same people would have mistreated in high school. Then again, Dylan’s output is a far cry from that of his heyday. But we want to believe our heroes can do it once again.

I’d like to motivate Bruce to be great again.

Because he hasn’t been great for such a long time. Maybe since "Streets Of Philadelphia". That "Wrestler" track was close. But the twenty first century has been this constant circle jerk saying his new stuff is great when we all know deep inside it’s not.

Bruce did not live up to the hype. The first album did not break through. And I was one of the few who purchased the second. And discovered the magic. This was artist development. But not only were the songs better, the band suddenly appeared. He was no longer the new Dylan, but someone sui generis, the poet of blue collar New Jersey. And then you went to see him live where he needed to close you, and did so with a performance so ferocious that word of mouth spread to the point where he was a college favorite and when "Born To Run" was released…it was all over, the deal was sealed.

It’s the story in "Sandy" that makes it.

And that classic imagery…going beneath the boardwalk where all the girls "promise to unsnap their jeans".

Once upon a time, all those matrons overpaying to see Bruce were nubile young chicks. They may not have had tattoos, but they were wild. With a desire to be even wilder, like the girls who lived for the moment.

Still, "Sandy" is most important as the set-up to "Kitty’s Back", the tour de force quiet to rave-up cut that said this was nothing like what had come before. Yes, "Kitty’s Back" and "Rosalita" on the second side broke Bruce. They’re the foundation of his live business today.

If only Bruce could sing about what he feels, about people instead of being the mouthpiece of a generation. That’s a heavy burden to bear. After all, we’re just people, no one knows best, tell us your story, so maybe we can identify, so we can connect.

We all want Kitty to come back.

We want to erase the lines from our face, we want to be lithe without effort, we want the opposite sex to pay attention, we want to get high and feel fully alive, we want to absolve ourselves of responsibility, just like we did in the seventies, when we went to the Springsteen show.

But even if you’re close to retirement, you can still do this, in your mind, JUST PUT ON "THE WILD, THE INNOCENT & THE E STREET SHUFFLE"!

P.S. Arguably, and that’s a hateful rock critic word, the Hollies cover, "Sandy (4th Of July Asbury Park)", is even better than the original, at least as good? Okay, you may not be able to match the original, but removed from the album, as just a song unto itself, the same way Manfred Mann removed "Blinded By The Light" from "Greetings From Asbury Park", "Sandy" has gravitas. Ha! There’s your second rock critic word!

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