Friday, July 4, 2014

Rolling Stones Friday: Far Away Eyes

The Rolling Stones playing on a flatbed truck rolling down Fifth Ave in New York City in 1975

It's the 4th of July, Independence Day here in the US, a day to celebrate all things American. And in my house, that starts with music.

But it's also Friday, which is our day here at WYMA to feature a Rolling Stones song. Yes, those Rolling Stones, the Union Jack-waving bad boys of old Britannia. Something's gotta give here.

The US and England share a common history, the same language, and have fairly similar cultures compared to most counties. Of course, we did overthrow them by violent revolution as I recall. Which is more or less what Independence Day in the US is all about (just add fireworks, the Stars and Stripes, hamburgers on the grill, and beer). Can we here at WYMA be true to our nation and still honor some of England's most famous sons today?

Yes we can as President Obama would say. The Stones loved America, were damn near obsessed with American music - blues, R&B, Motown, country. They recorded extensively in Los Angeles, and seemed to have a love affair with New York City. And they knew the history of and their way around Memphis, Detroit, Muscle Shoals, and Chicago too.

So, yes we can let the Stones into the 4th of July party today.

So many of their songs honored American music, it's not hard to find one that fits July 4. But we're going all the way in, to perhaps the most exaggerated American-style song they ever did, a bit of full on country music, complete with fake Southern TV preacher accent. But more importantly, "Far Away Eyes" copped the Bakersfield sound and as usual with the Stones, got it right. Cool promotional video too:

"Far Away Eyes" was released in 1978 on Some Girls. We'll forgive the fact that it was recorded in Paris. Ron Wood's pedal steel guitar lends a nice Bakersfield touch to it.

Here's a tasty live version recorded in Texas, USA in 1978, with Doug Kershaw sitting in on fiddle:

But we need to get an American band in here today too, and we're bringing in one of our favorites, R.E.M.. In a weird way, stay with me here, I hear Mick from "Far Away Eyes" in Michael Stipe's vocal on a similarly exaggerated song, "Voice of Harold". Stipe is reciting the words of a printed sermon he found left from a Christian music session at the North Carolina studio where Reckoning was recorded. The music is one of the newly recorded songs from Reckoning "7 Chines Brothers".  It's always been one of my favorite R.E.M. moments, inspired and weird and somehow perfect, a unique piece of Americana, the old South and the new South crashing into each other.

Happy 4th of July wherever you are.


Jim Desmond said...

We were just informed by no less an authority than Patterson Hood that the lyrics to "Voice of Harold" came from a recording session by gospel band The Revelaires produced by Jim Barbe, father to musician-producer David Barbe (Sugar, Drive-By Truckers,etc etc). So that collision of the old South and new South was even more dramatic than I realized.

Cameron Booth said...

Here's a scan of the liner notes that Stipe was reading from (pretty much verbatim). I've heard that Mitch Easter didn't think Michael was giving a very passionate performance on "Seven Chinese Bros." and threw him this record to sing as a loosening-up exercise.

BantryBay310 said...

They are not lyrics. The are the liner note/credits to a Revelaires record. A sermon? No. Credits

BantryBay310 said...


Jim Desmond said...

Thanks for all the clarifying and corrective info folks. Very helpful and much value added here. A fascinating little chapter to be sure. I realize it was quite a stretch for "Rolling Stones Friday" and I appreciate people coming along for the ride.