Sunday, August 2, 2015

Track of the Week: Sir Douglas Quintet "Mendocino"

I'm back from the Bay Area but still can't get over what an engaging place it was.  I've only immediately fallen in love with three cities in my life: Baltimore, New Orleans, and San Francisco, and in the latter case I fell super hard. (I guess I have a thing for port cities.)

Like New York City it's a place that has long drawn musicians in like a cultural magnet, often from far away places.  Doug Sahm and his original band the Sir Douglas Quintet hailed from Texas, where they cut one of the best garage rock tracks of the mid-60s, before heading out to the bay like so many other "gentle people."  This gang of Texans who favored the rhythms of 50s R&B and Mexican folk music must have been out of place amidst amidst all of the psychedelia, something referenced in songs like "At The Crossroads," which have longings for the Lone Star State.

While Sahm wrote a lot of other songs about Texas (where he eventually returned), one of his best is about a California town, "Mendocino."  It has his usual off-hand feel, starting with a little thank you leading into a memorable Farfisa organ hook over a choogling piano part driving things along. The organ is not psychedelic, but reminiscent of 50's sock hops, and the beat is more Tex-Mex than it is rock and roll.  Sahm and his band were a throwback to popular music as a soundtrack to a good time, as something you could dance to.  Sure, I like heavy rock and music that takes itself super seriously, but now that it's summer I just want something fun for letting the good times roll.  That's why every year when summer hits the dog days I listen to a little Doug Sahm on the road to a Mendocino of the mind.

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