Thursday, September 7, 2006

Late Summer

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2006 at 1:32 PM

Took a day yesterday and went hiking at Beaman Park, in northwest Davidson. Great day, fog burned off early, had a mild run (still recovering from the super-flu that's been going around), hiked a little. Saw a really odd, cool movie, "Born to Be Wild," a 1938 trucking drama (with songs—sort of like American Brecht in pseudo-prole Calfornia) written by Nathanael West, of all people. Ward Bond dresses like a Mexican and dances, and the plot has something to do with a proto-"Chinatown" situation involving a dam, ranchers' land about to be flooded, two regular guys hauling a truckload of TNT, and a Woman whose role seems ambiguous. They don't make 'em like that any more.

Currently in my late-summer mode, and listening to a lot of Jackie DeShannon. She was a Kentucky girl who recorded in Nashville before moving out to California, and becoming the first singer-songwriter. At least, she was doing it when Dylan was doing it, as the two CDs of her Metric Music demos prove. The Byrds did her "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe," quite early; everybody did "Needles and Pins"; and the late Arthur Lee even copped a lick from her wonderful "A Lifetime of Loneliness" (written by Bacharach) for his equally wonderful 1967 "¡Que Vida!" She even worked with Bobby Womack, and with Chips Moman in Memphis. On her 1970 "To Be Free" LP, there are a couple of sublime late-summer moments, all about how much Jackie enjoys having money and time in California (being a singer-songwriter means the songwriter can make a little money). "What Was Your Day Like" is a beautifully judged song about two lovers who are miles apart, and the narrator wanders through her day, eating oranges and coffee, shopping in her little town, wondering how things are on the other side. "Brighton Hill" is like something off of Brian Wilson's "Smile," except there's no nervousness, no angst. It's pure pleasure.

DeShannon's work is being reissued right now, to good effect; "Songs" has the unreleased-until-now Moman material. Well worth checking out.

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