Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "King Of The Road"
And then there are the songs you hate when they're hits...
That you absolutely LOVE decades later.
Like Roger Miller's "King Of The Road."
We already knew him from "Dang Me," which seemed like an extension of the Down Under hit "Tie Me Kangaroo Down," we knew he was someone in the country world, but could he keep his near-novelty tracks off our Top Forty stations?
By this time, the British Invasion was in full swing, we wanted only our hits on the radio, not the hangovers and hang-ons of the squares. And when one of these left field hits appeared, they seemed to last forever. We endured them to the point where we knew every lick. They're burned into our brain beyond the people we went to school with. Faces fade away, songs sustain.
And then, a couple of weeks ago, I hear "King Of The Road" on Sirius and...IT'S A REVELATION!
The finger snapping intro is no longer hokey, but hip. Beatnikesque.
"Trailer for sale or rent
Rooms to let fifty cents
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain't got no cigarettes"
That's all we had as kids. We were desirous of possessions, we begged our parents for them. But then you get older and you become tied down by obligations you don't even realize are bonding you to terra firma. The world gets bigger, but your life is smaller, the same damn people in the same damn town and then...
There's this guy singing about going it alone, following his muse and...
There's so little on the record. It sounds like a peek into a guy's life. Like he's singing it alone in his pine board walled motel room and is completely thrilled and entertained and so are we as the mic picks up his private world.
That's one thing music does so well...haunting.
All these years later, it's like there's a real guy... And as opposed to the modern songs with all their platitudes, the picture is fully fleshed out, it seems completely real.
And that's one great thing about records, they're permanent. They don't change. But we do, and suddenly meaning is unlocked that we couldn't even perceive when they were hits.
"Ah, but two hours of pushin' broom
Buys a eight by twelve four bit room
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road"
The American Dream. You hit the highway, fancy free, and discover who you truly are. He may be poor in bank account, but he's rich in experience.
And so are we, the listeners.