Friday, July 10, 2009

Cosmic American Music

Eric's recent mention of Gram Parsons got me going back through the Flying Burrito et al. catalog, and there is some great, great stuff in there! For my money though, the most entertaining/fascinating song of the whole bunch may be a very early one called "Blue Eyes", from back when Parsons was recording with the International Submarine Band, before he joined The Byrds. It seems to encapsulate all the themes of his later career in one hopping little country song: a romanticisation of simple country family life, a probably self-conscious inference that the singer is a "poor boy", and a wandering, drug using, hippie mentality tying it all together. I'm tempted to see this song as the seed of the whole "Cosmic American/Hippie/Alt-Country" movement that continues to this day, though there may well be an earlier example somewhere.

At any rate, back when I was a drug-addled 19-year-old and full on superfan of alt-country (to a degree that I may never again be a superfan of anything), music didn't get much better for me than "I've got chores to keep me busy/A clock to keep my time/A pretty girl to love me/With the same last name as mine". And quite frankly, even though I now have some ironic distance from it, deep down that chorus still gets me every single time. It's a little like that last scene in Field of Dreams: I can see exactly the way I'm being emotionally manipulated, but I'm helpless all the same. In fact, if I may continue: "And when the flowers wilt/A big old quilt/To keep us warm/I've got the sun to see your blue eyes/And tonight you're in my arms."

1 comment:

Via Chicago said...

My antipathy towards lyrics is well documented, but I know every word of Blue Eyes. It's an amazing song, and I will go to bat for it any day of the week. That Gram Parsons anthology was on heavy rotation during my Barstow Project days, and I do believe was actually the pre and post show music for David's Redhaired Death. I also love Luxury Liner from that same era.

As Q says, maybe there is an earlier alt country example - but for my money, Blue Eyes remains the gold standard against which all other alt country is graded and falls short. Tupelo included.