Train To Nowhere



It only happens on Saturday night.

Honestly, during the week I jump between Howard Stern and the news, I just can’t slow down enough for music. Then again, if those don’t appeal I’ll go through the presets, 60s on 6, the Beatles Channel, for some reason the more familiar resonates in this scattered world.

But I did not know “Train to Nowhere.”

This first happened a few weeks back. I was driving back from hiking and I was listening to the radio and I suddenly felt like I’d jumped back in time, like it was the seventies and I was back in that era, something akin to smellavision, as in all the feelings I had back then returned. I was listening to the tunes and it felt like I was in college, or working at a summer camp, or traveling and…I haven’t had those exact same feelings in eons. I mean I was alone in my car, there wasn’t much traffic, the music took me back, to be honest that’s why I wrote about “Strange Brew,” it was playing on Deep Tracks and it was like I was listening to it back in 1968.

Now on Saturday night the news is lousy. CNN is on some theme programming, MSNBC…I don’t know what they’re up to, they keep changing weekend format. And I enjoy the car guys on NPR, the only problem is Tom’s dead, and many of the problems people call in about are no longer relevant, cars need so much less service today, especially electric ones. And I’ll go to the POTUS channel, but it’s on reruns, and political talk that is not of the moment is hard to listen to. And the BBC…sometimes you hit, sometimes you don’t. Same deal with Bloomberg. As for Fox? Even its weekend programming is second-rate. So, driving on the weekends, I always listen to music. And last Saturday night, two days ago, what I heard on Classic Vinyl was too obvious, so I switched to Deep Tracks and they were playing “One World (Not Three)” by the Police, is that really a deep track, not to me, I know it by heart. But just when I parked my car, the station started playing a song I didn’t know, and when I started hiking and pulled up the station…it was still playing the Police song, you see the streaming app is behind the radio, which I actually like because I don’t miss anything in the interim, but for some reason Saturday it seemed like there was a five minute gap, and usually it’s much shorter, so I was listening to the Police song and it was just too much, but I hung in there.

Savoy Brown… I’ve written about the band before. It’s famous primarily for being the start of Foghat, unjustly maligned, if only we had straight ahead boogie rock today. Lonesome Dave was just a secondary member of Savoy Brown, but in Foghat!! And Savoy Brown constantly played the Fillmore East, I never saw them, but they seemed to be billed constantly, about as much as this band AUM, which I think they used to fill holes in the bill, when they needed a third act.

So I’m hiking up the trail and finally “Train to Nowhere” comes back, and it’s just as satisfying.

“You can catch it if you want to ride

Don’t you worry if it pass you by”

But it’s not about the lyrics, it’s about the guitar! They don’t even make records like this anymore, with this sound, which was bedrock back in the late sixties, a feature of British blues bands.

It’s funny, so much of what I hear makes me want to turn it off, but these notes, this sound, this groove immediately hooked me, and it was not like the song was a big hit, but in the pocket. Actually, I checked it on my phone, maybe I was out of the loop, maybe it was an FM smash, but it wasn’t, but it was the opening track on the band’s 1969 album “Blue Matter,” WHICH IS NOT EVEN ON STREAMING SERVICES!

And truthfully, the vocal is imperfect, it resembles nothing so much as Canned Heat, but maybe we can go up the country on that road again.

You see there’s not that much on “Train to Nowhere.” It’s the band, the guitar is not soft, but there’s a lot of air. And the drums come in and it’s got that driving, solid Cream feel.

“Train I ride goes to god knows where

I don’t know and I don’t care”

And I’m thinking how nobody writes train songs anymore, that era has passed. But it’s hard to care about the rest of the world, especially when Kim Simmonds starts to wail two minutes in, it’s simple, unadorned, yet so right, and the rhythm section sustains the groove. This is not music made for TikTok, nor for video, just to listen to, not dancing, not standing, but with your ass parked, on a couch, a chair… It’s all about the music, even though it’s so simple. It’s a fulfilling trip, you don’t need to multitask, it’s enough, you go on a singular adventure, it’s just you and the music, and that’s more than enough, and you don’t want the mood to be broken.

“If you ain’t got money don’t despair

‘Cause you don’t have to pay no fare”

We all need money, but not like we do now, income inequality was much less of a thing, you could make it on minimum wage, your defining characteristic could be that you listened to music, knew all the players, followed the sound like you used to follow baseball. And everybody playing had reached puberty, and had been practicing for years, to be good you had to.

“Ride the wrong rails live your life in vain”

Now if you’re sitting in front of your computer with hellzapoppin’ endless input, chances are “Train to Nowhere” won’t resonate. Then again, that intro guitar is magical. But the track is not in-your-face, it does not demand attention, rather you hear the sound and turn your head, wanting to know where the music is coming from, you need to get closer, you need to luxuriate in it.

And it’s over half a century since this track was cut. A longer period of time than the one between Robert Johnson and its recording. But through the miracle of streaming music, it’s readily available, it’s right here, right now.

Can you slow your life down enough to enjoy “Train to Nowhere”?

It’s hard these days, but it was the rule back then, there was limited input, we could take time to explore, to go deeper, we were more open.

So I’m sitting here two days later and I pull up “Train to Nowhere” and my head starts involuntarily nodding along, it’s doing so now, I can’t tell you the science, but I will tell you I know the feeling, and the feeling never changes, it’s not one we’re selling today, but that’s just because like the Aztecs, the Greeks, we’ve lost the classic formula, only today it’s hiding in plain sight.

Maybe marijuana helped. Dope slows you down, whereas drink makes you verbal and ecstasy makes you manic. That’s another reason what they now call “cannabis,” for fear of negative connotations, spread far and wide, it was part of the culture, it was part of the music, today it’s mainly about looking cool, it’s a door to nowhere, just a dark room where you’re disconnected from this painful world. But in the dark back then you were not sitting there somnambulantly, you were on this aural adventure, a trip, better than any ride at Disneyland, any VR experience, it was so good that you had to go to the gig, you sacrificed your life to the sound, it was a train to somewhere, that somehow doesn’t exist anymore.

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