Playlist: Virtual Summer Vacation Tour – 50 Songs For 50 States

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I only recently realized that the year is half over. I was terribly busy at work and knew that June was ending – its a big deal for my Corporate Masters when the first half ends – but it wasn’t until I woke up on July 1st that I thought, wow, we’re now starting the back half of the year. I can’t believe that the July 4th, Independence Day Holiday is upon us. It tends to sneak up on me. I’d like to wish all my American readers a happy and safe 4th of July. We posted a playlist for the 4th a few years ago, BourbonAndVinyl iPod Playlist: 4th of July, American Independence Day. Remember folks, watch those firecrackers, we want all of you out there to keep all of your fingers. And also – sparklers are really hot so be careful with those. I burned my hand really badly one year… #clumsy.

For years on the 4th of July, we used to take our daughter out to my sister-in-law’s house in the country for that time honored tradition of “blowing shit up.” Now that she’s grown and moved away that tradition sort of withered. At night, out on that little farmstead, we’d climb up on the roof of the house which was on a hill and you could see every small town fireworks display in the three county area. It really was awesome to behold. I don’t even know if in this time of pandemic that towns and cities will be doing fireworks displays? I know east of where I live somebody has been enjoying lighting firecrackers for a few weeks now. Usually at 2 a.m., thanks kids.

For me, the calendar rolling to July tends to signal the start of summer. I know that most people associate the start of summer with Memorial Day and the end of summer with Labor Day, but for me the start of summer was always July. By July school was over, when I was older I was into whatever summer job I had. I was a bus boy for a while, filthy work, really. I also did light construction at my best friend Doug’s father’s company building tennis courts. That was even filthier work. Dirty jobs seemed to be my specialty back then. As the Who sang, “I’m getting put down, I’m getting pushed around…” In the tennis court days I prayed every summer day for rain. Joe Zona was the weather guy on the AM station and I used to listen to him every morning like he was the Oracle of Delphi hoping he’d say it would rain so I could have a day off.

When I think back (mostly fondly) of summers I think of my father’s tradition of taking us on a family vacation. I was a…let’s call it… “difficult” child. My father, brother and I weren’t terribly close at the time. We weren’t a fly-on-a-plane somewhere family. We’d load up the car and drive wherever we were going. Locking me, my brother and my father in the same car had to be pretty tense for mom. A lot of testosterone in a small space. It’s a wonder we all stayed alive. We drove as far as Cape Cod to visit my aunt one year. Thankfully my grandparents were in a second car… we communicated with toy walkie-talkies I’d gotten for Christmas the previous year. My brother and I would switch cars every time we stopped, like a prisoner exchange. We were like Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold’s family in ‘Vacation.’ I will say, after that trip we only drove that far one other time, to Florida. I think everybody realized the long drive was a difficult plan to execute.

The place we went probably more than any other was in southern Missouri. It was a western/cowboy themed amusement park named Silver Dollar City near Branson. I think it’s still open. This was before Branson became, well, Branson. It was nothing tremendous but we really loved going there. The problem was the three or four hours in the car getting there. My father, the poor bastard, would load us up in the car and before we’d hit Grandview he’d already run through his greatest hits: “Stop jiggling my seat,” “Don’t make me come back there,” or my favorite, “If I have to stop this goddamn car…” That was the most menacing of threats. His face would be red and I couldn’t even imagine how batshit crazy he’d have gotten if he ever did have to stop the car. I imagined being flogged with a belt beside the highway until the cops showed up to drag our rabid-dog-angry father away from us to prevent our death. I was so obnoxious the cops might’ve helped dad beat me. We didn’t have iPods or iPads or TV’s built into the back of the driver’s seat. It was 4 hours of billboard bingo… I spot an A… These kids today don’t realize the struggle was real. I feel sorry for my dad having to work 50 weeks a year only to face his hostile family for 2 weeks while we vacationed “together?”

Here I am all these years later and “summer vacation” means taking a few extra days off around the 4th of July so I can sleep late and go for a walk. These days it’s more likely a “staycation” instead of actually traveling somewhere. This year there really is nowhere we can go. I have a brother in Houston… nope, COVID is spiking there… I hope he’s wearing a mask. My wife will go out and see our daughter at some point but I’ll probably hang here at the house… Usually when she leaves me alone like that for a weekend she finds me slathered in peanut butter and bourbon, weeping over an old video of Springsteen and the E-Street Band, muttering, “I can’t believe the Big Man is gone…” I need adult supervision.

I know some people are planning to travel anyway, despite the pandemic. I see those crazies at the Lake of the Ozarks. I was never really a “lake” person. My pal Doug’s dad had a boat and that was fun, but my parents never took us to the lake. For those of you who are stuck at home – or hell for those of you on a long car drive, threatening members of your family for invasions of your space (“he’s on my side of the car”) – I thought I’d put together a playlist that takes us on a virtual tour of the United States. I know it’s trite, and it’s been done before, but never by us down here at the B&V labs. I tried to pick one song for every state. Usually I looked for songs that had the state in the title but the rules were pretty loose, to be honest with you. I actually got the idea listening to Neil Young who seems to have more songs named after states than seems normal. And yes, there are many songs about states, but these were my favs… and as usual I’m all over the place stylistically. You can find this playlist on Spotify, just search on “BourbonAndVinyl.net” and you’ll find it. Wherever you are out there, traveling or not, I hope you all have a great and safe summer. We’ll be here at B&V listening to rock and roll, locked in our attic like a modern day Boo Radley. Leaving our little gifts in the form of these humble posts. Enjoy!

  • Alabama: Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Sweet Home Alabama” – Well, you knew I’d go here first. I considered Neil Young’s “Alabama” but I knew I’d be using him later.
  • Alaska: Maggie Rogers, “Alaska” – I actually stumbled across this tune by accident. I know nothing about her but I dig this track.
  • Arizona: Scorpions, “Arizona” – From their great album, Blackout. 
  • Arkansas: Bruce Springsteen, “Mary Queen of Arkansas” – I actually had the pleasure of seeing Bruce play this deep track live in Little Rock (aka La Petite Roche).
  • California: 2Pac featuring Dr Dre, “California Love” –  We like to turn this track up as loud as it will go. Simply brilliant.
  • Colorado: Stephen Stills with Manassas, “Colorado” – From the country rock side of the double album… I love Manassas.
  • Connecticut: Aerosmith, “I Live In Connecticut” – I totally cheated here… this is just a song fragment. I like Aerosmith tho…and there aren’t a tremendous number of songs about Connecticut, the Wonder bread of states.
  • Delaware: George Thorogood, “Delaware Slide” – A really long song for a small state. This is George’s first appearance on a B&V playlist, welcome George.
  • Florida: Eric Clapton, “Mainline Florida” – I stayed in the guitar hero area here. I love this track.
  • Georgia: Willie Nelson & Ray Charles, “Georgia On My Mind” – I had to go with this live duet as most of Ray Charles’ music isn’t on Spotify. I don’t know who is running things at his estate but they might wanna look into that.
  • Hawaii: Neil Young, “Hawaii” – From the brilliant vault release Hitchhiker, LP Review: Neil Young’s Album From His Vault, ‘Hitchhiker’.
  • Idaho: B-52s, “Private Idaho” – Fun song from a fun band.
  • Illinois: Tom Waits, “Johnsburg, Illinois” – I was late to the Waits’ party but I’m all in now.
  • Indiana: Melissa Etheridge, “Indiana” – Kansas lady singing about Indiana…I loved her debut LP.
  • Iowa: Mal Blum, “Iowa” – I only picked this track because Manfred Mann’s “Stranded In Iowa” is not on Spotify. Sigh.
  • Kansas: Big Country, “We’re Not In Kansas Anymore” – I considered cheating and putting a track by the band Kansas here, but I dug this song.
  • Kentucky: Elvis Presley, “Blue Moon of Kentucky” – Many have sung this song, but none like the King.
  • Louisiana: Randy Newman, “Louisiana 1927” – Newman was from southern California but he spent summers at his New Orleans’ grandmother’s house.
  • Maine: Rudy Vallee, “Maine Stein Song” – Consider this track “intermission.” It sounds like a school fight song. There just aren’t many tracks about Maine.
  • Maryland: Good Charlotte, “There She Goes” – I don’t know if these guys are from Maryland but this song is about it.
  • Massachusetts: Modern Lovers, “Roadrunner” – “I’m in love with Massachusetts” was not how I was feeling after the Cap Cod trip of 1976…
  • Michigan: Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Especially In Michigan” – Kiedis’ mother lives in Michigan… I’m so glad Frusciante is back!
  • Minnesota: Tom Waits, “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis” – Minny is a jewel of a city and this is a jewel of a track.
  • Mississippi: Bob Dylan, “Mississippi” – This track was also covered by Sheryl Crow but Dylan’s version trumps that.
  • Missouri: The Beatles, “Kansas City” – I went with this because, well, I’m from KC and I feel that the rest of the state outside of Jackson County is a no man’s land.
  • Montana: James Taylor, “Montana” – That voice…
  • Nebraska: Bruce Springsteen, “Nebraska” – The title track from Springsteen’s bleakest LP, B&V’s 10 Favorite Grim And Sad Albums.
  • Nevada: Billy Joel, “Stop In Nevada” – From his Piano Man album, which not surprisingly I love.
  • New Hampshire: Sonic Youth, “New Hampshire” – It’s about time we get some Sonic Youth on a B&V playlist!
  • New Jersey: Tom Waits, “Jersey Girl” – I didn’t realize I had so much Waits on here… Obviously I could have gone with Springsteen’s version but I dig this one.
  • New Mexico: Johnny Cash, “New Mexico” – I considered “Albuquerque” by Neil Young but you can’t beat the Man In Black.
  • New York: Frank Sinatra, “Theme From New York, New York” – So many NY songs to choose from, B&V Playlist: Songs For New York City, but you have to go with the Chairman of the Board on this one.
  • North Carolina: James Taylor, “Carolina On My Mind” – I did research here and this song is about North Carolina…
  • North Dakota: Lyle Lovett, “North Dakota” – A song about the “girls from North Dakota” and perhaps the saddest track on this list.
  • Ohio: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “Ohio” – Written by Neil…”Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, we’re finally on our own…” Powerful even today!
  • Oklahoma: Merle Haggard, “Okie From Muskogee” – I got to see Merle open for Bob Dylan. He had a voice like smooth whiskey. I’ve also been to Muskogee… a good place to be “from.” Merle was probably on the wrong side of history with this song, but I love the man’s music.
  • Oregon: Loretta Lynn, “Portland, Oregon” – From an album produced by Jack White. Great duet! Loretta and Jack, singing together? Yes, please.
  • Pennsylvania: Heart, “Pennsylvania” – A track I was unfamiliar with until I started researching this list a few months ago. Kind of a haunting track.
  • Rhode Island: Ike & Tina Turner, “Rhode Island Red” – Ike is a bad man but I dug this song.
  • South Carolina: The Raconteurs, “Carolina Drama” – From Jack White’s original side project. Great little band. This is my favorite song by the Raconteurs. And yes, he name drops South Carolina in the song so I’m good here.
  • South Dakota: Liz Phair, “South Dakota” – The 90s “It Girl” rocker.
  • Tennessee: Chris Stapleton, “Tennessee Whiskey” – On a blog with “bourbon” in its title you knew I’d be drawn to this track. My friend Drummer Blake turned me onto this one… This might be my favorite track on this list, right now anyway.
  • Texas: Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble, “Texas Flood” – The title track from the great bluesman/guitarist’s debut album.
  • Utah: The Beach Boys, “Salt Lake City” – It shows you my desperation on finding a track about Utah that I went to the Beach Boys (who I despise) for a track.
  • Vermont: Willie Nelson, “Moonlight In Vermont” – From the wonderful Stardust album. Willie was the first country singer I actually liked.
  • Virginia: Foo Fighters, “Virginia Moon” – Virginia is for lovers and fighters of Foo. Kind of mellow for them.
  • Washington: Nirvana, “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge Seattle” – I don’t know where Cobain got his inspiration for this song but the movie ‘Frances’ starring Jessica Lange might just be it… It was a harrowing, unblinking look at how Frances was just betrayed by everyone around her. I’ve always connected with this abrasive track.
  • West Virginia: John Denver, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” – The karaoke, sing along favorite. I had to reach deep on this state.
  • Wisconsin: Ben Iver, “Minnesota, WI” – Two states in one song…
  • Wyoming: Neil Young, “The Emperor of Wyoming” – From Neil’s debut album. 100% country-rock instrumental and a nice way to take us out of the 50 states.

Enjoy this little virtual tour of the fifty united states of the U.S.

Cheers!

Editors Note: No children were harmed or abused in the writing of this post, least of all me, your intrepid blogger. Corporal punishment was used sparingly in my house in the 70s and only when I deserved it. The threat of corporal punishment was used quite a bit. 

B&V Returns From Vacation With A Playlist: Songs of Home

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“Home is where the heart is…” – Pliny the Elder

The Rock Chick and I share a love for the open road. There’s nothing like jumping in the car and driving long distances with music blaring and the wind and sun flowing in the windows. I just have that Jack Kerouac ‘On the Road’-jones, I suppose. While I’ve spent most my life in Kansas City, there’s a gypsy soul in my heart and I love to keep moving. Last week the Rock Chick and I jumped in the car and headed out to points West, to the mountains, to see our daughter and have a little vacation. Things get stressful here at the B&V labs and sometimes you gotta get away… see different stuff, talk to different people, try on different clothes.

Now, I’ll be the first person to admit what a privilege it is to be able to go on a vacation. Not everybody can take off work and actually travel. I will also be the first person on the planet to profess his undying love for my wife and child. We are typically a very good squad to travel with, a very tight-knit group. Those caveats aside… after about three days on the road with my family, I just can’t wait to get back home. I miss my own bed and pillow. I like sitting on my couch in front of my TV drinking my bourbon. Paying $14 a drink didn’t help things. And whilst I love my family, no matter what group you’re traveling with, eventually you’re gonna hit a wall. What starts off nice turns, well, for lack of a better word, crabby. Three people in a confined space doesn’t always work. I travel for my work so my time at home is sacred. Naturally on the back end of my vacation, after spraining my ankle by stepping in a hole, whilst gazing up at the beautiful mountain scenery (because I love the mountains and they hate me… I just don’t perform well at altitude), my thoughts turned to home… which then turned to rock and roll songs about home.

When I got back home last week, I found that we’d finally sold my wife’s deceased father’s home. It’s out in the country, literally in the middle of nowhere. The guy who was renting the place moved out and left a mess. Even at the zenith of my bachelorhood, I couldn’t have imagined living in the filth this guy did. We gathered a squad of intrepid friends  who went above and beyond the call of duty and helped us clean out the two barns. It was a dystopian nightmare in those fucking barns, but we cleaned it all up. My thanks to all of them. As I was going through all of my late father-in-law’s belongings, it felt bittersweet. I was close to him. I was glad to be cleaning up the place but kind of sad to let go of this last vestige of “him.”

I have to admit, the sheer volume of stuff in that barn made me think of George Carlin’s definition of home, as just “a place for your stuff.” My father-in-law was a bit of a hoarder. He had over 200 guns. I’m not a gun guy… I’m still baffled by that. More confusing still was his collection of over 180 large, semi-trucks. These were adult Tonka toys. He had a full size road-grader. He had several fire trucks. He needed a really big place for his stuff. As I cleaned out his barn, under a sign that read, “Free Beer… Tomorrow,” I couldn’t help but think about mortality and the passing of time. But more importantly, having just returned home from a brief vacation, I thought about the nature of “home.”

Is “home” just a place for our stuff? Here was this big farm, actually a ranch since he ran cattle on the land, full of big trucks and guns but at the end of the day my father-in-law lived by himself. He always seemed to have a girlfriend, but I never really got to know any of them because as soon as I learned their names, they were gone. I think he was a happy man but do we ever know the mind of others? We got down to see him as much as we could but he lived in a pretty remote area. Is life really about who dies with the most toys wins? Do we just stack up our money and stand on top of it to decide who has the most value?

The only thing that I could come up with as I pondered these deep thoughts in a cavernous barn full of refuse, is that “home” is more than just a building where we keep our stuff. It’s a feeling. I gazed over the group assembled in that barn, three close friends and my wife, and reflected on seeing my wonderful daughter the week before and I realized, “home” is not a building. It’s not what Carlin thought it was, “a place for my stuff”… it’s this network of friends and family. I think Billy Joel sings it best in the song “You’re My Home,” when he sings the line “Well I’ll never be a stranger and I’ll never be alone, wherever we’re together, that’s my home.” Not to be maudlin folks, but as my friend Alfonse always says, “it’s all about love.”

I hope that where you are you are surrounded by family and friends, that you are truly home and happy… As always you’ll be able to find this playlist on Spotify under the title “BourbonAndVinyl.net Songs of Home.” I will add any suggestions to the playlist made in the Comments section… I have to admit, I was surprised at the number of really sad songs about home… what is it about home that causes such longing? There are a host of emotions in these songs… but doesn’t home always evoke a host of emotions? From longing to get back home to longing to hear from someone whose left home… it’s all here.

  1. Aerosmith, “Home Tonight” – The ending track from Rocks, I love the guitar coda.
  2. Cinderella, “Coming Home” – These guys were the bluesiest of the hair bands. I’ve always dug them.
  3. Genesis, “Home By the Sea” – An epic, almost creepy track from them.
  4. Paul McCartney, “Eat At Home” – Ok this song is about sleeping with your spouse, but the metaphor works.
  5. The Beatles, “When I Get Home” – Great deep track by the Beatles.
  6. Neil Young, “Homegrown” – Great track that finally got released on American Stars N Bars. 
  7. Silvertide, “Ain’t Comin’ Home’ – Great little hard rock song from a band the Rock Chick turned me onto.
  8. Roger Daltrey & Wilko Johnson, “Going Back Home” – Title track from an overlooked gem of an album.
  9. Led Zeppelin, “Bring It On Home” – Bluesy, bluesy Zep.
  10. Chuck Berry, “Thirty Days (To Come Back Home)” – Chuck issuing an edict to his woman to get on back home. We all miss somebody out there on the road.
  11. Bush, “Baby Come Home,” – From the great late period record, The Sea of Memories. 
  12. Scorpions, “Coming Home” – For the Scorpions, home was the stage!
  13. Eric Clapton, “Lonesome And a Long Way From Home” – From his first eponymous solo album. Great track.
  14. Boston, “Let Me Take You Home Tonight” – Lame come-on, or great song. I’m leaning toward the latter.
  15. Delaney and Bonnie, “Comin’ Home” – With sizzling lead guitar by Clapton.
  16. CSNY, “Our House” – “With two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard…”
  17. Ozzy Osbourne, “Mama, I’m Coming Home” – Great Ozzy track from a great album.
  18. The Allman Brothers Band, “Please Call Home” – I love this song. I love both their first two albums Artist Lookback: The Allman Brothers’ First Two Albums, 1969-1970.
  19. Phil Collins, “Take Me Home” – Phil gets a bad rap, but who doesn’t dig this song?
  20. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Hometown Blues” – I have these all the time… but when I leave I just end up coming back.
  21. Joe Walsh, “Home” – Laid back, longing from his Barnstorm era.
  22. Eddie Money, “Take Me Home Tonight” – I hear the Money-man is ill. Here’s to a speedy recovery!
  23. Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, “Got To Be A Better Way Home” – From Asbury Park’s other great export…
  24. Bruce Springsteen, “My Hometown” – Speaking of New Jersey…
  25. Jackson Browne, “The Naked Ride Home” – Title track from a great Jackson Browne LP…in which he convinces a young lady to ride home with him, naked. I could never pull that off.
  26. Little Steven, “I Don’t Want To Go Home” – From the great Soulfire LP, LP Review: Little Steven’s ‘Soulfire’ A Triumphant Return To His Solo Career.
  27. Paul McCartney, “(I Want To) Come Home” – The saddest, sweetest song on here.
  28. White Stripes, “There’s No Home For You Here” – The Stripes say good bye to somebody.
  29. B.B. King, “Nobody Home” – B.B. doing a great kiss off song. It’s a shame when you can’t go home.
  30. Bruce Springsteen, “All The Way Home” – From the great Devils And Dust album.
  31. Tom Petty, “Home” – From the deluxe edition of Highway Companion. 
  32. Billy Joel, “You’re My Home” – The best description of my vacation…
  33. Gregg Allman, “I Believe I’ll Go Back Home” – Great blues from his next to last solo album, Low Country Blues. 
  34. Motley Crue, “Home Sweet Home” – Classic song by the Crue.
  35. J. Geils Band, “I’ll Be Coming Home” – I still can’t believe these guys weren’t bigger in the 70s. What a great, overlooked band.
  36. Blind Faith, “Can’t Find My  Way Home” – “Cuz I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home…” I think we’ve all been there.
  37. Elvis Presley, “Stranger In My Own Home Town” – The King, returning to Memphis and finding himself a stranger.
  38. Iggy Pop, “Home” – From the great, Brick By Brick. 
  39. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, “Country Home” – A quintessential 7-minute jam from Neil and most importantly, the Horse!
  40. Rod Stewart, “Oh God, I Wish I Was Home Tonight” – Rod doing the “call my girlfriend back home” song.
  41. The Vaughan Brothers, “Long Way From Home” – Stevie Ray and Jimmie laying it down.
  42. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Comin’ Home” – Good ol’ southern rockers, headed home.
  43. David Byrne, “Everybody’s Coming To My House” – A song in which David invites everyone to his house, and then sings, “And I’m never going home.” Hysterical.
  44. Robert Cray, “I Can’t Go Home” – People forget how big the bluesman became in the late 80s.
  45. Led Zeppelin, “Baby Come On Home” – Early track that only came out on an album on Coda. 
  46. Sam Cooke, “Bring It On Home To Me” – The best voice in the world, doing one of the best songs in the world.
  47. Simon & Garfunkel, “Homeward Bound” – The folkies best song in my opinion.
  48. The Allman Brothers, “Leave My Blues At Home” – Steppin’ out and leaving your blues at home… God knows we all need to get out more.
  49. Roger Waters, “Home” – “Everybody has a place, they call home.”
  50. Buffalo Springfield, “On The Way Home” – This upbeat Neil Young track sums up how I feel when we load the car for the trip home…
  51. U2, “A Sort of Homecoming” – Epic, earnest… “I am coming home…”
  52. Stephen Stills, “Go Back Home” – Gut bucket blues… I seem to be drawn to bluesy numbers for this playlist.
  53. Bruce Springsteen, “Long Walk Home” – One of his finest late period songs. About geopolitics but it works.
  54. Foreigner, “Long, Long Way Home” – Epic rock song.
  55. Steely Dan, “Home At Last” – Steely Dan chronicling Odysseus’ famous trip home from the Trojan Wars.

There it is folks! Hug a loved one. Cheers!

 

Humor – The Song Stuck In My Head From Vacation: “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me”

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This may be my weirdest post yet…but I have to exorcise a demon…

While I like to consider myself a “man of leisure,” it has occurred to me over the years I’m not a “vacation guy.” I like going on vacation. If it were up to me I’d be on vacation all the time but the Rock Chick says we have bills to pay. After a two year time lapse, the Rock Chick made it clear we were overdue for a real vacation. Not the, “take Friday off for a long weekend, run up to Chicago” type of vacation, but a vacation involving sandy beaches and sunscreen. Like most married dudes, I acquiesced immediately. The next thing I knew through the grace of a smoking deal on travel, I was in the beautiful Dominican Republic…sandy beaches, beautiful people, and unfortunately on a couple of days… rain.

On a beach vacation, as I’ve posted before, I like to lay on my lounge and listen to my Summer/Sun Playlist. Listening to music is one of the best parts of the entire vacation for me… well, one of my favorite things I can actually write about (heh, heh, ahem). I slip on the headphones and float away. If I’m lucky, I nap. Every day should be like this. But unfortunately the rain made that impossible on one of my vacation days. We quickly decamped to the open air lobby of the resort and found a small table in the corner of the bar. Luckily the Rock Chick had brought a deck of cards and with a dark rum and Sprite with a lime in hand (a drink I had formerly been unfamiliar with and now love) I was having my ass completely kicked in a game of Crazy-8’s. Yes, Crazy-8… that’s as heavy as the Rock Chick and I get into cards… I’m no gambler. Getting out of bed every day is enough of a gamble for me.

It was this rainy afternoon, that I discovered the resort held what I dubbed, “The Sad Saxophone Hour” every day. This dude showed up with a saxophone and a drum machine and some pre recorded keyboards and played sad songs for an hour or two. The prior days of my vacation I’d been passed out on the beach or in my room and had missed “sad sax” hour. At one point the Rock Chick pointed out he was playing the theme from ‘Titanic.’ The horror, the horror. First rain, then losing at cards, then Celine Dion… my worst nightmare.

I had pretty much tuned him out, but toward the end of the performance, I realized he was playing something I recognized… I knew that I knew the song, but it took  me a while to place the melody. Towards the end of the song, I realized he was playing the old Motown chestnut, “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me.” I don’t know why, perhaps it was the exercise of trying to identify the song, but once I’d figured out what it was, the song lodged in my brain and has remained there ever since. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit, I’ve never been a fan of Motown. I’m a hard rock/blues rock kind of person. I like classic rock. When I was in the mood for great soulful music, I was always more of a Sam Cooke man… Sure, I dug some of the later things Marvin Gaye did. Martha and the Vandelas had a few great moments, “No Where To Run To” springs to mind. But overall Motown doesn’t do a lot for me and other than the Supremes I can’t think of an act I like less than Smokey Robinson and the Miracles who wrote and originally performed “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me.”

But as this song lodged in my brain for a few days, I began to realize what a great tune it really is. As I thought about it, the obsessive way I think about music, it occurred to me that there are a lot of different versions of this song. Everybody has covered this thing from The Jackson 5 (Michael on lead vocals, naturally) and Diana Ross to Phil Collins and Rod Stewart (gasp, sadly in the “Songbook” period of his career). Like “Yesterday” it seems that almost everybody has taken a crack at this song… Some versions are much better than others. In my opinion, there are only three versions of this song that matter… or that I can listen to. And so, in an effort to get this song to leave my brain, I shall list the three essential versions of “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” here on the pages of B&V in the hopes that I can then move on with my life. Like I said, this may be my weirdest post yet…

Smokey Robinson And The Miracles – I have to chock my love of this version of the tune to my musical theory that every band has one good song. I never liked “Tears of a Clown” or any other Smokey tune. His voice is great, he’s an amazing writer and producer but I just never dug Smokey. But I have to admit, his impassioned vocal on this song, and the great piano figure that drives it just sinks into your brain. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about here. It reached me all the way down in the Dominican Republic and won’t leave me…

The Beatles – The Beatles covered this song expertly on ‘With The Beatles.’ John Lennon takes the lead vocal and I have to say he kills it. He brings even more urgency than Smokey did on the original. You can tell Lennon is really pushing himself vocally, it sounds like his voice almost breaks down midway through the song. The rest of the Fab Four harmonize beautifully on the background vocals. Toward the end it almost feels bluesy. Fabulous lamentations by the Beatles. They even nail the piano figure at the end. It’s a great cover by the Beatles but what song didn’t they make better?

Eddie Money – Yes, Eddie Money. Inexplicably Eddie Money covered this song on his debut album and while this will be considered blasphemy and blow any musical credibility I have established in these pages, this is my favorite version. There’s no background harmonizing. Eddie ditches the piano for guitars to drive the tune. He completely reimagines the song. It’s a laid back, baby “you do me wrong” kind of song. Eddie even plays a fantastic sax solo in the middle of the track. “Sad Sax” guy could learn a thing or two from Eddie… I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think Eddie owns this tune for me… over Smokey and The Beatles? I know, it sounds crazy. When I think of this song, this is the version I think of. Eddie just seems to feel it more.

Thank God, after all these years, I can finally get this off my chest and confess my love of the Eddie Money version of the tune. I just feel better now. It’s not very often I can say I dig the Money Man… but there it is. I’m hopeful now that I’m home and surrounded by the myriad of LPs here at the house that I can drowned out this song in my head…but you never know. This might be permanent… I could end up walking around singing, “I wanna quit, but I just can’t split” like an urban hipster for the rest of my life…

Thank you for reading and allowing this catharsis. Cheers! (ps – try a dark rum/sprite with a squeeze of lime, it’ll put you in that summer mood…)