Sonic Highways-Joe Walsh

Taylor Hawkins asked Joe to play “COUNTRY Fair”…

What I love about the internet is the ACCESSIBILITY! In the finale of “Newsroom” they played a song “That’s How I Got To Memphis.” It was a bit cheesy, as were the romantic tie-ups, but I am a sap, and anyway, the song reached me immediately, and I’d never heard it. That’s the power of a hit. And this Tom T. Hall composition was for Bobby Bare, and a bunch of other people covered it, and you should pull them all up on Spotify or Deezer or YouTube and if you bitch one more time about Spotify payments I’m gonna throw you down on the floor and put my foot on your throat and lecture you about the past, how we went from the flourishing CD days to Napster to iTunes to streaming and that the enemy is theft but you’re too ignorant to remember the past and that’s what makes you an American, THERE!

Anyway, “County Fair” is the best track on Joe Walsh’s disappointing follow-up to “The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get”, “So What.” Stream it. Now. It was a sales disappointment, but an artistic triumph. “Welcome To The Club” did not equal the success of “Rocky Mountain Way,” and as a result not as many people purchased the album and they missed out on “Falling Down,” “Time Out,” “Song For Emma” and “COUNTY Fair.”

Come on all you vinyl cronies, you know who you are. I’ve got the round black disc, and the stereo to blast it. That’s right, the phono pre-amp and the zillion watts and the huge speakers and when Joe strums that famous chord the whole house shakes and this is how it was when music ruled the world.

It does not now.

There was an article in the “Atlantic” the other day saying today’s artists have to wear multiple hats, that you just can’t be a musician or a writer or… And Dave Grohl is testimony to this. Hollywood’s most likable guy, Dave is a one man extravaganza of effort, and hype, and if you thought the over-promoted “Sound City” was good you should check out “Sonic Highways,” a love letter to a past that no longer exists, but everybody over forty remembers, these same people bitching that the Internet moved their cheese.

It most certainly did.

It used to be so different. You were waiting, you were eager, you heard someone had new music, you listened to the radio to hear one track, you saved your money to buy the album, and you could not buy all the albums you wanted. You’d go to a friend’s house and see something you were interested in and immediately put it on, and usually be disappointed, because you didn’t already know it by heart. That’s right, in the era of scarcity we knew our favorite albums by heart, they were all we could afford.

So last night I started at the beginning, at the “Sonic Highways” Chicago episode. And Dave Grohl makes me feel inadequate, it’s so well done. Maybe he’s got incredible help, maybe he’s got his chops up because he already did “Sound City,” but if you were deep into it, if you were a fan back when, you’re riveted.

Bonnie Raitt testifies. They show her when she was young and ripe. Can I say that Bonnie? That you oozed some kind of intelligent, down home, unique sexuality that infected us college boys long before you made it back in the “Nick Of Time”?

And as cool as Buddy Guy is, and believe me he is, to see Muddy Waters is transfixing. I once hung with Willie Dixon. That’s right, at a Bug Music Christmas party, I’ll tell you the story sometime. After I tell you about the summer I spent in Chicago with the famous AIDS doctor downstairs and the famous rabbi upstairs with my hormones raging in a frat house I didn’t want to go to but did and was happy I went.

The summer of ’69. The real one. When I went to the newsstand and “Penthouse” showed pubic hair. I’ll never forget it. This was long before everybody was naked online.

ANYWAY…I hung with revolutionaries and almost got my ass shot off without knowing it and I’ve had an affinity for Chi-town ever since, even though I don’t think I’ve been out of the airport in decades. But to see Steve Albini, a rock original whom I only know from his online screeds, testify in the flesh is to instill religion in this disbelieving boy. That’s right, the last studio owner standing is mired in debt, but he’s not changing his belief system.

And Rick Nielsen comes in to lay down some licks, and it reminds me of seeing Cheap Trick at the change of the decade, from the seventies to the eighties, and marveling that they were a hard rock band when I loved the melodiousness of “In Color,” but it was nothing compared to Joe Walsh’s guest shot.

So the star of the L.A. episode is this dead guy Fred and Josh Homme. It’s mostly about the desert. However, when they’re walking down Bundy, a street I drive every day, my eyes did bug out, but that’s L.A., with famous people all around the neighborhood.

So Joe talks in this way that is almost affected. But he journeys to the desert to lay down a solo and…

Then he doesn’t play. He lets bars go by. And then he adds just a few notes and they’re oh-so-right. Which is so refreshing in this era where everybody gives everything they’ve got, all the time, figuring if they don’t they’ll never make it.

But the truth is they won’t make it for other reasons. Because no one’s got any time anymore. And they’re too busy looking at porn. We can’t disconnect, we can’t give up the access to each other via our devices. So we’ve only got time for hit music and the oldies and everybody in the music business laments this, believing they’re immune to the changes.

But I’ve seen the changes. And it ain’t easy rearranging.

And it certainly gets harder, as you get older. As far as farther away as you get closer… I’ll let you decide.

But even though that song is from 1977, Stephen Stills broke through with the Buffalo Springfield a decade before. The James Gang came after.

And in between CSN hits came “Hotel California.” With Joe Walsh’s indelible solo.

So the point here is we’re both stimulated and overwhelmed, consuming while we’re comatose. We’ve got so much information passing before our eyes that it all becomes a blur.

Except for one note, pure and easy.

And Pete Townshend raved about Joe Walsh. And when he strums that chord from “County Fair”…

Time stands still.

Sonic Highways-Joe Walsh – Spotify playlist

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