Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Little Feat Primer"
"And if you give me weed, whites and wine
And you show me a sign
Well I'll be willin', to be movin'"
Probably the most famous road/trucker/dope song of all time.
Then again, is that a category of one?
I discovered "Willin'" in the fall of '71 in a cover version by Seatrain.
Check it out here:
At this late date, you'll probably excoriate it, but you've got to know in '71 no one had any idea who Lowell George was, never mind Little Feat.
Actually, I discovered this track by hearing a cover band do Seatrain's cover. Yes, I was spending a Friday night at the Roundhouse in Manchester, Vermont, and the only thing I remember about that night, other than the waitress trying to kick us out for not drinking enough, even though we were the only people there, was this song. I asked what it was and had to buy the original. And, if you're on a Seatrain kick, check out "Song Of Job."
But the point is Little Feat recorded this track twice, on both of its first two albums, but it's known mostly by covers, most famously by Linda Ronstadt.
"I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonopah"
One of the great things about moving out west is having records come alive. I've BEEN to Tehachapi, it's where the train goes round in a famous circle. And when you drive the lonesome highways you see those signs for...Tonopah and Tucumcari.
Never a Top Forty hit, never a radio staple, "Willin'" is more famous and remembered more than most.
EASY TO SLIP
The first album sunk like a stone, and so did the second, but after buying the third, I went back and purchased the second, entitled "Sailin' Shoes," and discovered this exquisite opener. A magical track that almost no one knows, once you do, you'll find it playing in your brain at opportune times, like skiing the bumps in Utah, where it became my anthem. The acoustic guitar, the changes, the vocal...
"Well I don't want to drift forever
In the shadow of your leaving me
So I'll light another cigarette
And try to remember to forget"
That's what we're all trying to do, forget. To stop our memory drifting back to...what once was.
You'll know the Robert Palmer cover. The band had history with him. In case you're not in the know, I'll include the famous three song trilogy that opens Palmer's debut. It'll have you movin' and groovin' and missing Palmer for a lot more than that famous video.
TRIPE FACE BOOGIE
The funny thing about "Sailin' Shoes," other than its Neon Park cover, is the fact that when I bought it every track was unknown, but over time so many have surfaced, like "Sailin' Shoes" above. They became classics when the band performed them live and recorded them on their album "Waiting For Columbus." But "Tripe Face Boogie" is the second most accessible track on the record, which is why I'm including it here, and not the equally good "Cold, Cold, Cold" and "Teenage Nervous Breakdown."
A APOLITICAL BLUES
What's the trope? Almost no one bought the Velvet Underground's debut, but everyone who did started a band? Well, methinks Lowell George and Little Feat influenced just as many players. You probably know this song from Van Halen's second album with Sammy Hagar, "OU812."
"Dixie Chicken" is a masterpiece, not the title track, but the album. It was so well-reviewed that I bought it and couldn't understand it, but since I'd spent my money on it, I played it until I did, and the first track that revealed itself to me was "Juliette." Play this for someone today and they'll say...WHO'S THAT?
That's the power of Lowell George's voice. So sweet, so meaningful, from an era when it wasn't about hit singles. No, that's not true, by this point, in order to make some dough, that's what you needed, a hit, but it wasn't until the next album that they got one.
I think more people know Bonnie Raitt's cover, but the original is even better, because of Lowell's sweet voice. I'm sure Bonnie would agree, she was a Lowell acolyte, he played great slide on "I Feel The Same" from her second LP, "Takin' My Time."
FAT MAN IN THE BATHTUB
Was Lowell the fat man in the bathtub?
I'll let you decide.
This is all about the groove. If you can lock on to one just as tight and memorable, you'll have a career in this business.
ROLL UM EASY
Sounds like it was cut in your bedroom. So intimate. That's what we've lost so much with today's in your face music, check out J.D. Souther's cover:
KISS IT OFF
For the vocal alone. When Lowell sings about being the child of some electric nightmare, the hair on the back of your neck will stand.
There are so many grooves on this record, it's astounding they could all fit on one LP!
ON YOUR WAY DOWN
An Allen Toussaint composition that the band makes its own, the key is this:
"The same dudes you misuse on your way up
You might meet up
On your way down"
Ain't that the truth! These words go through my brain on a regular basis!
A classic, who knew?
Kind of like Todd Rundgren's "Bang The Drum All Day," long after its initial release...this could be the second most famous Little Feat song ever, but this one is known for the band's rendition!
The hit! Just when it looked like Little Feat was gonna be for fans only, Billy Payne came up with this gem and it lit up the FM airwaves.
SKIN IT BACK
It's a sexual reference. Let's just say, if you're Jewish, you probably won't get it. Written by Paul Barrere, Little Feat was not only Lowell George. Merry Clayton's brother Sam played percussion, and Richie Hayward pounded the skins and Kenny Gradney completed the rhythm section, it was a band of virtuosos!
If you couldn't play...
"You were a sweet girl
When you were a cheerleader
But I think you're much better now"
You think rock stars do it for the money, but really, they do it for the sex!
ROCK AND ROLL DOCTOR
"Two degrees in be-bop, a PHD in swing
He's the master of rhythm, he's a rock and roll king"
ALL THAT YOU DREAM
Credit Linda Ronstadt for making this one famous too.
"The Last Record Album" had no hits, but its peaks were SO HIGH!
"I've been down, BUT NOT LIKE THIS BEFORE!"
LONG DISTANCE LOVE
The piece de resistance, wherein Lowell George demonstrates his greatness.
We live in an era where it's all about the surface, everybody's in your face playing smash mouth football. But the people we remember most, the people who get the most...action, are those who slink up behind the beat and steal our hearts, when we're not even looking.
And the universality... We've all gotten long distance love and had to give up!
ROCKET IN MY POCKET
"Time Loves A Hero" was a true disappointment, the band's albums were getting progressively worse, especially with the decrease in Lowell's involvement. This is good, but almost too obvious.
STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
From the posthumous album, this George/Payne composition is the highlight of "Down On The Farm."
This Billy Payne composition is the highlight of the posthumous collection "Hoy-Hoy!" You probably don't know it, you should.
The studio version is on the fourth album, "Feats Don't Fail Me Now," but the definitive take is on the band's live album "Waiting For Columbus." Whoa, the bass! Whoa, the horns! Whoa, the groove! Whoa, Lowell's vocal!
"There's whiskey and bad cocaine
Poison get you just the same
And if that, that don't kill you soon
The women will down at the Spanish Moon!"
The live take from "Hoy-Hoy!" It's dark and dirty...
"I heard you got an infection from a guitar player of great renown!"
The live take from "Hoy-Hoy!" You can hear the fingers on the frets, the fingers on the keys!
ROCKET IN MY POCKET
Live, it kills. From "Waiting For Columbus."
TRIPE FACE BOOGIE
Live, from "Waiting For Columbus," you can't help but get up and move, shake a tail feather, even if you're alone when this comes over the speaker or headphones.
It's so DARK! This is the same sound the Band was selling, but live Little Feat did it even better. Levon Helm was a great singer, but Lowell's just as good, if not better, and he wrote, but he's slowly fading into the rearview mirror, he's not being remembered.
Except for those who believe.
"I did my time in that rodeo
It's been so long and I've got nothing to show"
Yes, that's what being in a band is like. Round 'em up, go on the road, and see what happens. And oftentimes, all you've got left is your memories.
"Well, I'm so plain loco
Fool that I am I'd do it all over again"
Sure, some people get rich, but most are bit by the sound, the lifestyle, they've got no choice, they want in!
Who knows, a century from now people may come to the greatness of Lowell George, because when you underplay, when you focus on getting it right as opposed to telling people how great you are...they know.