Sunday, July 19, 2015

Track of the Week: Rod Stewart "Gasoline Alley"

Track of the Week has been on hiatus for a couple of weeks owing to my time on the road.  While traveling my mind was engaged so much in the sights and sounds of my trip that I wasn't all that engaged with music.  The fact that I was pretty much forced to listen to whatever would make my children happy or put them to sleep didn't really help all that much, either.

I've been thinking a lot about early Rod Stewart music due to a book project I'm working on (details will follow if it turns into anything), and I am still blown away by how good his first four albums were.  I've been telling this to people for years, many of whom push away my evangelism, unable to believe that the man who gave the world dreck like "Love Touch" could possibly once have been great.

Perhaps you will turn me away too, but I shall shake digital dust from my cyberfeet at your door, because I am on a mission to make the world hear.  You may be skeptical, but you must not dismiss me until you have listened to "Gasoline Alley."  It's the title track of his second album, and exemplifies his unique sound at the time.  Stewart took folk music but amped and rocked it up with the rollicking spirit of the Faces, the band he fronted at the time.  This was not the folk music tradition of dour protest songs, but the folk music tradition of the hoe down and Irish jig.

It's a beautiful song with a pretty acoustic guitar line backed both by traditional instruments like mandolin and less traditional electric slide guitar courtesy of Ron Wood.  It's a song sung from the perspective of an older person who lives far from the neighborhood where he was born and raised.  He's thinking back fondly to where he came from, and pleading not to die and be buried where he lives.  Now do you have the spirit?  Now is the revelation made plain to you?  If not, and you doubt that Rod was once great, then you have a heart of stone.

Going home to Nebraska put this song in my mind.  Somewhere in Oklahoma the trees suddenly faded away and the sky opened wide, stretching instantly from horizon to horizon.  Tears started welling up in my eyes, since I had just passed into the Great Plains, the land of my birth.  It's a place I don't particularly want to live in again, but I hate being so far away from it.  Whenever I hear this song, it reminds me of how far away the land of my birth is from me, and how I wish I could go back more often.

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