Up here in Wisconsin, we’ve had a whole string of days this week best described as leaden. Gray, windy, spitting raindrops—such a day isn’t an artistic masterpiece, but it’s not necessarily bad, either. Bright frosty mornings and golden sunny afternoons are October also, but blustery weather definitely has its place. I was out in it this week, running hither and yon with the music on. And here are five songs with powerful mojo on an October afternoon.
“Young Hearts Run Free”/Candi Staton. On the radio as the summer turned to fall in 1976. “Young Hearts Run Free” is ostensibly older-and-wiser Candi giving advice to the younger women in her life: Savor the freedom your age permits you, and avoid getting tangled up in adulthood before you have to. Better advice a young person of either gender will not get: Live as loud and as large as you can while you can, so that in years to come, you’ll have no regrets.
“Warm Ways”/Fleetwood Mac. One of the greatest things Fleetwood Mac ever did. It’s a showcase for Christine McVie, who’s never a more appealing singer than she is here, and she covers the whole thing in shivery organ washes. Lindsey Buckingham scores big points also for finding just the right notes at the right times. And even Mick Fleetwood, whose drumming style usually involves banging ’em as hard as he can, gets caught up in the romance of the thing, and the result is one of his most sensitive performances.
“I’ll Get Over You”/Crystal Gayle. Her first single to hit Number One on the country charts, in the summer of 1976. When I was in country radio, I always looked forward to Crystal’s records. She could imbue any lyric, even the most uninspired Nashville song-factory product, with real emotion. On the page, “I’ll Get Over You” is a declaration of emotional resilience in the face of romantic disappointment. But on the record, there’s a little quaver in her voice that suggests she’s never going to be the same again, ever.
“Maxine”/Donald Fagen. From Fagen’s 1982 solo debut The Nightfly, this has the vibe of a late-period Steely Dan cut, but without the chilly distance. Instead, there’s actual warmth, as Fagen anticipates how he and his beloved will “move up to Manhattan and fill the place with friends,” thereby living happily ever after. But here’s the thing: Happily ever after isn’t as easy as it looks.
“Memory Motel”/Rolling Stones. In which a weary Mick Jagger sings about a road that never seems to end, one that takes us further and further from the days and the people we remember best. “Memory Motel” is one of the more unusual tunes in the Stones canon, from Black and Blue, an album I have dug approximately forever. Keith Richards doesn’t play guitar on it; instead, he’s on electric piano, while Mick plays acoustic piano.
The month is only a little more than half-over—so the odds are good that we’ll do more of this sort of thing here before too long.
Recommended Reading: A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Van Morrison’s assumption that everybody on the Internet is a pirate who wants to take money out of his pocket. This past week, an album that was streamed in its entirety on the Internet for a week prior to its official release sold more copies after its release than any other record in the country. Jerry Del Colliano reports, and provides the money shot: “File sharing sells music. Piracy is the wrong word. Free promotion is the right word. In the past, free promotion used to be called radio.”
Also: If you enjoyed our Monty Python retrospective last week, and if you get IFC on your cable or satellite, watch for Monty Python: Almost the Truth, a six-part documentary about the group’s history, premiering Sunday night at 8PM Central.