Sonic Highways-Nashville

I could watch this all day!

Talk to Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney too…it’s all about inspiration. And in a world where money comes first and fame second, it’s hard to find that thing that makes your hair stand on end and say…I WANT TO DO THAT!

Everybody successful has that moment. When lightning struck and they instantly knew what they wanted to do.

But that was just the beginning…

Zac Brown wrote “Chicken Fried” in 2005. He told Joe Galante to pull a cover from the radio. Because originals are rare, both artists and songs.

That’s what Nashville is all about, songs, according to Dave Grohl. Which begs the question why the tracks that fill the end of every episode are so mediocre. The public knows, the “Sonic Highways” album is a stiff. There just wasn’t enough inspiration to push Mr. Grohl into greatness. Furthermore, he’s a terrible lyricist. But no one will tell him this, because he’s so nice and so successful. That’s what’s wrong with America, you can’t criticize anybody with money, who’s made it.

Anyway, the key to this episode, the moment when I got caught up, is when Tony Joe White starts to testify.



A track that I know by heart that never really did it for me but now that I’ve heard Tony Joe White tell the backstory, I LOVE IT!

I never knew what “polk salad” was. Turns out it’s a weed. That you boil like spinach and eat with corn bread when you’re poor. Dolly Parton ate it. Tony Joe White was singing what he knew about. He heard “Ode To Billy Joe” and told himself that if he was ever gonna make it, he was gonna have to tell stories that were true, that people could relate to, that’s what made “Polk Salad Annie” a hit.

And there’s a lot of naysaying about Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line, and we can argue all day long whether they’re singing about what they know, but the one thing is those songs are hits, written by experts, who’ve paid their dues. The only problem is the people writing today’s pop hits were all born overseas and don’t focus on communal experiences but platitudes, and that’s what’s wrong with music right there. Tony Brown, who’s got enough naysayers himself to rival Florida Georgia Line, says if it’s all about formula, he’ll go the other way. And I won’t say I believe Mr. Brown, but this episode rehabilitates him, reveals his gospel roots, tells the story of working for Elvis after his piano player defected to Emmylou, and then he follows said piano player to Emmylou’s band.

That’s right, music is an adventure, you never know where it will take you. But in these days of instant fame, we’ve eviscerated that concept. We want it all, and we want it now. As if Queen wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody” on its first album, hell, the band was barely kept alive after its debut, I was the only person I ever knew who owned it.

But the point is today it’s about making it and selling out, nowhere so much as tech. But Mark Zuckerberg refused to relinquish his company, he’s making acquisitions, he’s looking for a second act. Same deal with Snapchat, they don’t want to sell out. WHY DOES EVERYBODY IN MUSIC WANT TO SELL OUT??

So Tony Joe White tells about hearing Lightnin’ Hopkins and being inspired to become a musician. Getting in his car and driving to Nashville to get rejected. That’s right, he had “Polk Salad Annie” and nobody wanted it, until he got to Monument. The point being no one knows anything, you’ve got to believe in yourself. But you’ve got to have the goods. And almost no one does…

It almost sounds like a Creedence record, before anybody knew who Fogerty was. Listen to that guitar TONE! And that guttural utterance…

Some of you all never been down south too much
I’m gonna tell you a little story, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about

This was back before BMW was in South Carolina, before Mercedes left New Jersey, when the south was seen as backward, the land of racism, and suddenly there’s some guy with a heavy accent telling us what’s really happening down there…

Down there we have a plant that grows out in the woods and the fields
And it looks like something like a turnip green

I’ve heard “Polk Salad Annie” hundreds of times. But it was out of the speaker in the dash of the family Oldsmobile, I could not make out the lyrics. But one thing’s for sure, the track was laden with hooks. Because to have a hit, you’ve got to HAVE IT ALL!

And Tony goes on about the chain gang, that I heard back when. But now, hearing Tony Joe White tell the story of “Polk Salad Annie” I’ve got a new appreciation for the track. That’s right, we’ve got more music news than ever before, but it’s all hype…so and so released this, so and so is dating that person, so and so is artificially dissing so and so or saying how great they are, it’s like no one has a brain, certainly not the writers, there’s no narrative.

And the narrative is first and foremost music is SOUND! It’s something you hear. And underneath that is the song, the story. There’s a construction, with groove and chorus and hooks and it’s not as formulaic as everybody says it is, but if you leave all the formula out, you’re never gonna make it. And when done right, there are lyrics we can all relate to.

We’ve got to get ourselves back in the garden.

Blame the labels. No one there ever played with his own money. They’re all so inured to the past, they don’t get the present. All competing not realizing no one’s paying attention. We need ten tracks a week we all need to listen to. The industry should provide this, it doesn’t.

As for the acts…uneducated, lowest common denominator denizens who don’t realize music is a calling, not a profession. It’s a road you get on that takes you away from everybody else and if you’re lucky, you’ll find an audience and be able to pay your bills. If not, no bitching. But bitching is everything in the music business today, no wonder nobody pays attention, the world hates a whiner.

And when you’ve got culture, when you’ve got talented lifers selling their wares, hype becomes irrelevant, it all fades away, records are king.

You remember records, DON’T YOU?

Doesn’t matter if you hear them on files, lossless or compressed, CD or vinyl, a killer track penetrates in all media. It’s something you’ve got to hear again and again, that you can’t stop telling people about. It’s the elixir that keeps you alive.

Like “Polk Salad Annie”…

Give it a spin.

P.S. I could watch “Sonic Highways” every damn day. It’s “Behind The Music” without the phony arc. Strip the axe from Dave Grohl and force him to tell these stories, they’re more important than his music. Really, if you were ever a fan, you’ll hang on the edge of your seat as people whose names you know come alive right in front of you. I thought I was over music, but when I watch “Sonic Highways” I realize it’s the most important thing to me.

“Polk Salad Annie”: Youtube or Spotify

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