The Who’s classic 1970 album Live at Leeds opens with vocalist Roger Daltry belting out: “I said, a young man… ain’t got nothin’ in the world these days!!!”
A high school kid at the time, I didn’t give much thought to the fact that Mississippi-born pianist/singer/songwriter Mose Allison (1927-2016) wrote those words. Sounded like straight up Who to me.
Thereafter, that name, Mose Allison, kept popping up. Makes sense when you consider that his songs were covered by the likes of Elvis Costello, The Clash, Leon Russell, Bonnie Raitt, and The Yardbirds. As my interests spread to blues and jazz, Mose followed right along thanks to his own awesome covers of Duke Ellington, W. C. Handy, Willie Dixon and Sonny Boy Williamson.
After seeing him 40+ years ago at the old Cellar Door in DC, I was a fan for life.
My musical funny bone cannot resist songwriters who embody a slightly-off-mainstream mix of irony, satire, irreverence, and clever cynicism. My faves tend to write in the first person, often serving themselves up as the protagonists in their songs. (e.g., “Send lawyers, guns, and money. Dad, get me out of this!” – Warren Zevon.) While Randy Newman – “No one likes us. I don’t know why…” (from Political Science) — probably sits atop my pantheon, there are others:
- Steve Earle brings some country: “I threw the car seat in the dumpster and I headed out into the night.” (The Week of Living Dangerously)
- John Prine adds folk perspective: “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes.” (Sam Stone)
- Tom Waits may well be uncategorizable: “You got it buddy, the large print giveth and the small print taketh away.” (Step Right Up)
Over the years, I have reviewed a number of albums in both this blog and back in pre-cyber times with Malcolm’s Monthly (1987-98). While the very idea of the album may have gone the way of Malcolm’s Monthly, I am excited about the forthcoming If You’re Going to the City – A Tribute to Mose Allison.
The release will feature covers by musicians like Bonnie, Jackson Browne, Richard Thompson, Chrissie Hynde, Loudon Wainwright III, and Taj Mahal. (Can’t wait for the Taj take on “Your Mind is On Vacation.”)
If you are not familiar with Mose Allison, his 1988 “Best Of” album is good. You might also give a listen to a 1996 Van Morrison album entitled Tell Me Something – The Songs of Mose Allison. That one features Mose himself doing his own songs along with Van the Man, Ben Sidran, and Georgie Fame.
Give a listen. With his distinctive piano playing throughout, you’ll be treated to such wordsmithing as:
- “Your molecular structure is really something fine; a first-rate example of functional design.” (from Your Molecular Structure)
- “You call it joggin’… I call it runnin’ around. – (You Call it Joggin’)
- “Y’know if silence was golden, You couldn’t raise a dime.
Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is working overtime.” (Your Mind is On Vacation)
- “I got some consolation, I’ll give it to you if I might.
Well, I don’t worry ‘bout a thing, ‘Cuz nothing’s gonna turn out right.” (Don’t Worry About a Thing)
- “There’s just one thing, baby, that comes from above.
When push comes to shove, thank God for self love.” (Benediction)
- “One of these days I’m going to get things straight.
I’m gonna stop acting like a reprobate.” (One of These Days)
- “I’m easy goin’… I make my way through life,
With love and understanding… from a rich and beautiful wife.” (I Don’t Want Much)
- “All I want is plenty, but I will take more.” (Ibid)
- Hurry up boy, bring that water… Don’t do things you shouldn’t oughta.” (City Home)
- “I’m hip. You could use a button on your lip.” (Look Here)
- “Everybody’s cryin’ mercy, when they don’t know the meaning of the word.” (Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy)
Look for it in November. Onward, Malcolm Gauld