HST & Friends
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Biographies+ E. Jean Carroll
+ William McKeen
+ P. Paul Perry
+ Peter O. Whitmer
Where Were You When The Fun Stopped?
Page added Apr-12-99
Last updated Winter 2006
Note: It appears that the site for the Songbook Series has been offline for a few years, and both this title and the Ralph Steadman one ("I Like It") are out of print. You can try finding them on Amazon or eBay.
An alternative cover?
This limited UK release had been rumored to be released in March 1999 for some time on a.j.g and unlike some projects was actually released when it was supposed to. The series also includes CDs from Robert Crumb and Ralph Steadman (I ordered mine online from Rough Trade).
In what was something new to me, Canada Post somehow managed to lose the out wrappings - no usual ransom demand or anything. They just appeared in my mailbox by themselves. Happily, the book-like CDs weren't hurt. The booklet is quite cool and there's even a picture of HST and Johnny Depp, plus a little blurb by Johnny. The CD is white except for a black gonzo brand :-)
The songs are:
Robert Mitchum/Thunder Road
Howlin' Wolf/I Smell a Rat
Norman Greenbaum/Spirit in the Sky
Warren Zevon/The Hula Hula Boys
Rod Stewart/Maggie May
Hank Thompson feat. Kitty Wells & Tanya Tucker/It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band/Will the Circle be Unbroken
Bob Dylan/Mr. Tambourine Man
Lou Reed/Walk on the Wild Side
Lyle Lovett/If I Had a Boat
Rodney Crowell/Stars on the Water
Jimmy Buffett/Why Don't We Get Drunk
Don McLean/American Pie
Jefferson Airplane/White Rabbit
The Band/The Weight
Herbie Mann/Battle Hymn of the Republic
Some gonzo fans might be distressed at the number of country songs on this CD, but trust me, it's something that old people do. My grandparents love Box Car Willie and I catch my mother watching CMT and TNN early in the morning. Fortunately, they're all likeable, especially "Carmelita", about a poor heroin junkie whose methadone supply has been cut off by the county.
Some songs aren't surprising, such as "White Rabbit" (this is a different version than the one on the FLLV movie soundtrack), "American Pie" or "Mr. Tambourine Man"
I listened to the CD upstairs. One thing I noticed right away was that most of these songs are meant to be played loud. The weirdest thing was that my mother, who is old enough to know better, didn't recognize most of them. "Who's that?" she said when "White Rabbit" and "Mr. Tambourine Man" rose to great heights in the living room. My mother, alas, will always be square. "Why Don't We Get Drunk" was even funnier. When I said it was Jimmy Buffett, Mom chirped "I like Jimmy Buffett!" and she stood in the doorway bobbing to the music until those awful words came out. "Did he say 'get drunk and screw'?" "Yes Mom", and then later: "Did he say 'snuff queen'?" "Yes Mom, he did." Mom's judgement: she no longer likes Jimmy Buffett.
"Thunder Road" is a catchy song about a mountain boy who trucks moonshine, only to die in a horrible car crash with the law on his tail. This song actually sounds something like HST's famous death fantasy that George Plimpton recorded in Shadow Box. :-) After you hear this song, there is little doubt why it was the first selection :-)
The real surprise on this CD, at least for me, was "Spirit in the Sky". With it's cheery refrain of "Gotta have a friend in Jesus" it seems out of place with the other songs. It would be nice to know why HST picked this one. Most of the songs have similar themes: loss, sadness and substance abuse.
The last song, an instrumental, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" was a hit with the birds. The gentle piping sounds caused Paullie to dive-bomb the fake rose bush in search of the invading bird and Buddy ran back into his own cage to have sex with his beaded mirror toy*.
Even if you don't like the music, it's a fine thing to get. The picture of HST on the cover is worth it alone, as well as the book inside where he writes about the impact that music has on his writing. There's also a neat little story about how Robert Mitchum's arrest for marijuana and delinquency of a minor had a postive effect on him, plus how HST was approached by the FBI in Grade Five for turning over a post box in front of a bus :P
* Both Paullie and Buddy have passed on to that great bird cage in the sky. Paullie was a total psycho keet, and Buddy...well, Buddy had a very big libido for a little bird, and, uh, was rather talented. I miss both of them still. I was also living at home with my folks still when I wrote this, doh :-D