My favorite song(s) in the world: Part I...
I've pimped Peter Case's music pretty hard on this blog over the years, but now I get to offer you the tunes themselves thanks to my Badongo player in the right hand margin. Last week I posted those deep cuts from UFO's Obsession album as part of a catch up plan and I'd like to continue with that effort. I had no luck coming up with a clever title for this reoccurring post so it is what is. If someone wants to recommend something I'd be happy to consider any suggestion. Otherwise, it’ll be this until I’m inspired.
Anyhoo, "Small Town Spree". I've been calling this tune out at Peter Case shows for 15 years and he hasn't obliged me yet. At one show a couple of years ago, I was talking with him between sets and when he asked me if there was anything I’d like to hear in particular I didn’t hesitate a second and quickly blurted out “Small Town Spree!” He scratched his head and asked me, “Do you remember how the lyrics started?” I took it to mean that he didn’t want to play it and I quickly made another suggestion, “how ‘bout ‘Put Down the Gun’?” “No problem…” he said, as he set down his cup of coffee and took his place in front of the mic.
The story in “Small Town Spree” is one that most anyone can relate to. The reason I’m so fond of the lyrics to this song is that in addition to personally knowing a ton of guys from my wasted youth who could qualify to be the figure in the tale, I’m pretty sure that many of my old high school classmates have thought the same of me as they leafed through their dusty old yearbooks. The hauntingly percussive guitar is complimented by a fantastic string arraignment that builds as the song progresses and at one particular point of brilliance offers a sickly out of tune backdrop as Pete sings, “Heard you broke down on your way out to New York City…”. His harmonic provides another clever sound effect surprise a bit further up the road.
I love the way he ends it too. Perhaps he’s wondering if there were signs back then that his friend had this thing in him even back then. No question one of my all time favorite songs EVER.
There are so many great PC songs that I would consider my second favorite (I was considering both “Poor Old Tom” and “Put Down The Gun”) that I decided to go for the tune that was a little more diverse juxtaposed against Small Town Spree and go with the latter. This is a PC song with band accompaniment and it’s simply fantastic. The open tuned guitar gallop at the beginning matched with his picturesque lyrics grab you from the beginning:
On the hills outside of town there’s a hiding place
Where the green fields sway with lavender that stirs the Queen Anne’s lace
Where the silent clouds go sailing in a sea of Dutchman’s blue
And the lonesome tracks by the railroad cut make think of you
And the train we missed…
With that, he lands on an E chord and you know something is amiss. As the chorus emerges, the band is in full swing electric guitars and all. The songs’ peaks and valleys are pure perfection to me and T-Bone Burnett’s production is masterfully evident throughout.
“Small Town Spree” affirms that everybody has a myth of some sort built around them in somebody’s eyes. Sometimes you end up defying them, sometimes you end up living up to them, sometimes for better or for worse. At a minimum, it’s great to be remembered I guess.
“Put Down the Gun” gives us a story of someone talking a friend down from the ledge. Something we’ve all had to do at one time or another. That’s just what you do for friends.
As I write this, I wonder if I’m cheating you by not going with “Poor Old Tom” now. I guess that means I’ll have to feature it on it’s own at a later time.
Enjoy and let me know what you think…
“Small Town Spree” is from Peter Case’s self titled debut solo album on Geffen records. Sadly, this record is currently out of print, but it can be found used on Amazon.com. “Put Down the Gun” is from Pete's second Geffen release “The Man with the Blue Guitar”. It is still widely available.