A thing I wondered about as I combed through 1960s girl groups, gris-gris, freak folk, regular folk, prewar blues, classic blues, The Basement Tapes, the Lomax collection, and the big 1970s—all in the service of making your Saturday night sadness (definitely a thing) into something soothing—is this: how best to listen when you’re feeling kinda low?
Like, for me, sometimes it’s the panacea of contemporary country music, when that one pun that the song’s hooked around is the only thing that registers in the sea of very similar sounding music, that makes me feel calm and still. Looping the same song is both similar and an idea I may have picked up watching Thora Birch loop “Devil Got My Woman” on her record player in Ghost World. One of the songs I usually do it with is Joan Armatrading’s “Woncha Come On Home,” described beautifully by Aquarium Drunkard just a few weeks ago.
A crazy thing is that “Woncha Come On Home,” peak scary singing-with-and-against-yourself soul sadness, was recorded and released on “Show Some Emotion” the same year as Michael Yonkers’ “Gone Down Old Sun,” track 4 on the B-side of “Lovely Gold” and track 3 on this mix, was issued. “Gone Down Old Sun” is a riff-y jam of warbly voice and a guitar that sounds like it swallowed surf rock and then spit it back out. Sound-wise, it’s much closer to this mix’s finish, Lou Reed’s 1970 acoustic demo “Lonely Saturday Night (aka Goodnight Ladies),” nails on strings and post-hippie languor:
Oh, nobody calls me on the telephone
I put another record on my stereo
But I’m still singing a song of you
It’s a lonely Saturday night
Re: Saturday, there’s also “Saturday Night Didn’t Happen,” a deep-space girl group jam by Reparata & The Delrons, off of a wildly, inappropriately good compilation called “One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds, Lost & Found” that was introduced to me, blessedly, by a very cool girl at karaoke New Years. She was hip to the pretty tragedy of girl voices hooked tightly together, and for that hook, it makes sense that Dr. John’s gris-gris “I Walk On Guided Splinters” fits so well next to it. Lifts me up, actually, to hear how well songs of so many different genres go together: classic blues queen Ivie Anderson next to young Tom Waits’ less than jubilant version of “The Heart of Saturday Night,” for example, or Dylan and the Band between Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers (first recorded by Alan Lomax in 1959 during his “Southern Journey”) and the evocatively named Bayless Rose, whose Wikipedia tells me only that nobody knows what his race is but doesn’t say anything about his wild, moving guitar.
Listen til the finish—if not for Lou, then at least for experimental country musician and brilliant songwriter Micky Newbury’s “Interlude” which starts with a country but flips immediately into what I imagine it sounds like to ascend slowly from earth holding hands with David Bowie (RIP!), then back down, deep, into The Fall’s “Before the Moon Falls.”
I guess the point, if there is one, is that no specific sound is in the key of a specific feeling, and if you’re alone tonight, you might as well hang out with a bunch of them.