Big Sound Saturdays: Rock ‘n’ Roll Dad

Here at Acro Collectiveour favorite saturday jokes are dad jokes, and our favorite Saturday sunshine sound is dad rock. S.A. slingshots us back into childhood with this sweet springtime dad rock playlist. Listen in, and don’t forget to call your pops today.

My radio childhood comes in fragments of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and baseball. My dad used to call his secret friends and scheme their fantasy league while I leaned against the back seat window and covered my ears to what’s become so central to the way I’ve listened ever since. I’ve always assumed my dad was never self-conscious about how much I hated Dylan in my early teens; on my end, the horror of playing something in the car that he wouldn’t approve of hardly ever made it worth risking. It’s not a problem anymore. Years later and now an “adult,” I’m eternally jamming to the flexible genre of late ‘60s and early ‘70s dad rock.

Far be it from me to limit the purview of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dad! Driving the fifteen-hour shot from Charlottesville, VA to Newport, RI with a friend of mine last summer was my most recent reminder that dad rock takes many shapes: my dad would probably shrivel into a raisin at the prospect of cruising the coast to the tune of Queen or Styx, just like if I had an EDM dad(???) I might’ve leaped out of that window that bore my preteen forehead for so many years. Take this, then, as an essential oil, or a certain brand of cigarette—this dad is of the contented springtime variety. For this Saturday afternoon, he’s really trying to relax.

My own Rock ‘n’ Roll Dad probably wouldn’t sign off on everything in here, but in all honesty, I put some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard into this mix. George Harrison’s “Apple Scruffs” is hazy and elated, with melty harmonies that make me confused about where music could possibly come from. The Velvet Underground’s demo of “I Found A Reason” makes me want to spin around in personal circles until I take off like a joyful twenty-something UFO. The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year,” Johnny Cash’s cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s “Old Chunk of Coal,” and Joni Mitchell’s “You Turn Me On I’m A Radio” are some of the happiest, most bare-facedly hopeful songs ever recorded. Since in the deep-dark heart of late ‘60’s-early ‘70’s Americana it’s hard to find exuberance unlaced with grief, lots of these tunes lean into the death-in-life undershadow: The Face’s bittersweet “Ooh La La,” Dylan’s lolling “Peggy Day,” The Byrds’ country crooning version of “Nothing Was Delivered,” Doug Sahm’s begging “Wallflower,” Love’s only sort of silly “Alone Again Or.” As always, Linda Ronstadt exalts in her pain, betting “No One Ever Hurt This Bad” before Nick Drake’s peripatetic “One of These Things First” and the Rolling Stones’ rollicking “Prodigal Son.”

The one I hold closest, though, is Townes Van Zandt’s “I’ll Be Here in the Morning,” released in 1968 on his debut album, For the Sake of the Song. For the Sake of the Song housed what would become many of his big hits in the countriest form he’d ever play them, stripped down in subsequent albums as he honed his folk sound. “I’ll Be Here in the Morning” is the kind of song my dad would’ve played me when I was stubborn and little if he’d heard it first—it tumbles out of itself, with a cheery harmonica and up-tempo that dialogues quietly with lyrics that promise commitment so insistently that you can’t help but wonder what could’ve happened to make the narrator need to promise to begin with. Singing through the history of country and rock—borne of the myth of the family and the myth of the outlaw—Van Zandt swears an end to his rambling that “resolves” in the minor. Again, the undershadow; Alone Again Or; Little Miss Queen of Darkness. Thanks to my Rock ‘n’ Roll Dad for the reminder that rock ‘n’ roll is for thieves and profits, mooring its ships on tempered American turf.

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