I figure most people fall into one of two categories: musicians, and people who wish like fuck they were musicians. The other day I was thinking about what kind of band I would have and what songs I’d want to play, assuming my total lack of rhythm, singing voice and musical accomplishment were of no concern.
I’d want a little blues-folk group, I think – a couple acoustic guitars, a banjo, a harmonica, drums, a bass, maybe a piano. We’d play old-school blues and folk songs, some rock and country shit, and since it would be my fantasy, we would fucking kick ass. Since being a talented songwriter in addition to a singer and multi-instrument musician is a little too much to wish for even in a scenario this laughably out-there, here are a few convenient already-written songs my modest little combo could play to the delight of audiences all over the county:
“My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” – A great Neil Young song from one of the best albums ever made, Rust Never Sleeps. Perfect opener for my kick-ass acoustic band, great lyrics like “The King is gone, but he’s not forgotten / This is the story of Johnny Rotten,” it don’t get no better.
“Let the Train Blow the Whistle” – From Johnny Cash’s brilliant first volume of American Recordings, a great train song which would allow me to sing the line “No regrets, all my debts / Will be paid when I get laid” in front of other people.
“Me and the Devil Blues” – After opening the set with those dependable classics, we’ll delve into darker territory with this down ‘n dirty old blues number from Robert Johnson about a guy who enjoys life’s simple pleasures, like walking with Satan and beating the shit out of his wife.
“Brownsville” – The classic blues song, not the Bob Dylan song. Cephas and Wiggins recorded my favorite version of this one, and since this is my happening and it freaks me out, my band can tear it up just as good!
“Powderfinger” – Can’t have too much Neil Young from Rust Never Sleeps, that’s my motto. This one has maybe the best last verse I’ve ever heard.
“Running on Faith” – Written by Jerry Lynn Williams, made famous by Eric Clapton. I’d do it like Clapton did it on Unplugged. Good shit.
“John Henry” – Best folk song ever. And about 20,000 different versions out there, too. Since my band would be too small to mount a version to rival the ruckus Springsteen raised with it on The Seeger Sessions, we’d take a shot at Pete Seeger’s banjo-driven take, which is lyrically similar and doesn’t require an orchestra of fiddlers and pickers to play.
“Trailer Trash” – Such a great fucking Modest Mouse song, covered very well by bluegrass band Iron Horse on their Mouse tribute album, Something You’ve Never Heard Before. We’d do the bluegrass version, since it’d be a shame to let that banjo go to waste, but put the profanity back in the lyrics. I feel the time has come for the union of swearing and bluegrass.
“Atlantic City” – Like I could have a musical jerk-off fantasy without throwing a little Springsteen in here. I’ve loved this song since before I was even that heavy into Bruce, ever since I heard the line “Well I got a job and tried to put my money away / But I got debts that no honest man can pay.” See why I’d only play other people’s songs? Like I could come up with any shit better than that . . .
“Can’t You See” – This was written by a genius bluesman named Henry Townsend, recorded by him near the end of his life on a masterpiece of an album called The Real St. Louis Blues. One of my favorite songs ever. This song can kick your favorite song’s ass without getting out of breath.
“Going to the River” – This is a beautiful, incredibly sad blues song I first heard Cephas and Wiggins play live at Blues Fest a few years ago, then again when I got their excellent album Cool Down. Always leave ‘em depressed, that’s what I say.
So that’s my musical masturbation fantasy – what’s yours? Whether you’re worth a fuck as a musician or not, if you could be in any kind of band, play any songs, what would they be? And why? What music means enough to you to want to perform it for other people?