Is there a better song for driving through the night on a long highway as the miles disappear behind you and a necessary destination beckons?
I came to Gram Parsons late, though I am not sure if you can come to him any other way anymore. Since the Eagles and Neil Young pushed country rock into the Top 40, I don’t know how much people listen to the Flying Burrito Brothers, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and Grievous Angel. That’s all right (and a brief scan through Facebook suggests that Parsons’ music still touches a lot of people). It’s more whiskey-sipping music than Little Kings chugging music. My apologies if that is your beverage of choice.
In the late 70s, high school was dominated by those who blasted Zeppelin or Skynyrd. Nazareth was an option. But you had those three standard kick ass songs when the testosterone started flowing. I might argue that those bands were capable of nuance, but teenage boys are not particularly known for their ability to read deeply into their artistic consumables. So, kudos to those who did appreciate Parsons before their growth plates started closing.
So, art in the right time and place… which has been a long way round for me to bring up Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud lived longer then Parsons, but his artistic output ended at a younger age. In the Frenchman’s case he ceased writing poetry for unknown reasons and began a life of travel and adventure. The words came to him and he expressed them for a while.
Art, whether you are the creator or the consumer, changes you. I don’t think we’re always comfortable with that aspect of the experience. Your feelings are exposed, perhaps only to yourself. Ideas blossom. Certainly, one work of art is potentially more provocative than another. Totalitarian rulers have always tried to shut down access to the more provocative work whether or not it was directly critical of their power. After all, that stuff makes people think and feel.
Which is what brings me back around to Hair of the Dog (that Nazareth song linked above- no, it is not called “Now you’re messing with…”). To their credit, I think that song very effectively channels its intended emotion. You are coming out the other side of those four minutes feeling pumped up and ready to take on the world. Your teeth may well be set and you can just tell your eyes have that glower going. Fine, so far, but is it provocative? Now, go back and listen to In My Hour of Darkness. All right, wait for your pulse to slow down from Nazareth and then listen to it. This is where the whiskey sipping comes in. You’re contemplating life. Gram Parsons provides the room for perspective, the true birthplace of wisdom and change.
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 242 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out are released regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry are posted irregularly. Notifications are posted on Facebook which you can receive by friending or following Craig.