My Life In Music, Part 1, 1969 – 1974

Prologue

  1. The Music Of My Life

Music means everything to me. It has for as long as I can remember. Each night I fall asleep

listening to music. Every morning I wake up listening to music. I play music in the shower. I

play music in the car. I play music at the gym. If I am not actively listening to music, I hear

songs in my head. When somebody is talking to me, I hear lyrics in their words, and start

singing to myself. While I have never completely written or recorded anything original, I have

made mix-tapes and play-lists since the Seventies.

 

I have spent almost all of my free time and “disposable” income on music and music-related

experiences. My first job was delivering The Daily News to a six block radius around my house

on Long Island, New York. I took the job because they offered a free cassette tape of my

choosing if I signed up 3 new subscriptions on my route. I took care of that task quickly, and

scored what may be my most favorite album of all time – the self-titled debut from the Long

Island based band named Zebra. I continued to find bargains and build my catalog thanks to

the marketing efforts of BMG and Columbia House music mail order services. Eventually, I

bought cheap guitars and amps, and later more expensive guitars. I have too many guitars.

 

Once the concert floodgates opened for me when I went to the University of Virginia, I started

going to as many shows as I could, no matter where they were located. Music festivals began,

locally and small at first, then larger ones able to draw a national audience of freaks like me

who were willing to drive or fly all over the country, sleeping in any hotel, motel, Holiday Inn,

tent, RV or Air B’n’B I could find. Woodstock ‘99, Rocklahoma, Rock On The Range, Carolina

Rebellion, Welcome To Rockville, Aftershock, Earthday Birthday, Vans Warped Tour,

Coachella, Voodoo Festival, Once Upon A Time in the LBC, Rock USA and KAABOO Del Mar

– these are a few of my favorite things. Then the rock cruises came along, which I have

enjoyed as a customer, staff member, charity worker, journalist and photographer –

ShipRocked, Motörhead’s MotörBoat, MegaCruise, and Monsters Of Rock Cruise.

 

Aerosmith ©2016 Johnnie Crow Photos

 

From 2010 to 2020, I was able to get up close and personal with the music, the musicians and

the fans. I have been a photojournalist for several print magazines and online websites. I have

previewed and reviewed concerts, albums and livestreams. I have interviewed artists

backstage and on tour buses. I have photographed shows of every kind, from the smallest and

darkest of clubs, to the largest of outdoor festivals. I have captured local artists, new acts,

living legends and lifelong loves, from Aerosmith to ZZ Top.

 

ZZ Top ©2015 Johnnie Crow Photos

 

During this mostly silent year, I decided to take a look back, to appreciate the journey so far,

and perhaps to make some sense of my decisions and choices along the way. This isn’t

exactly a memoir or biography, as I don’t believe that I have done anything of such

consequence to merit such documentation. I won’t know if there are any lessons to be learned,

or advice to carry with me on my second half, until I write it all down. The songs have been

chosen, the memories have come rushing back. We will see where this experience takes me.

With 52 years of special songs to revisit, I also plan to really focus on learning to play complete

songs on guitar. That gives me 2 songs to learn per week. That should hold me to a good

working cadence. Is everybody in? Drop the needle on the record.

 

  1. The Way I Chose The Songs

Choosing only 2 songs from an entire year was quite an ordeal. Some years had many

releases that had a major impact at the time, others not as many. I chose songs based on the

year that the album they came from was released. This means that the song itself may not

have even been released as a single that year. Sometimes a song hits you right away,

sometimes it builds slowly, and other times you discover it well after it was released. In many

cases, it takes some new experience to bring the importance of the song into focus.

 

I suppose it generally takes some passage of time for the songs that mean the most to you to

bubble to the surface. Only time will tell which ones continue to swim around in your brain,

forming the soundtrack to your life’s story.

 

I chose the songs that have had the most lasting impression on my life, the ones that instantly

take me back to a time, or a place, or a person, or an experience, or all of the above. The

names will be changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike. These are the songs that mean

the most to me, and nobody knows me better than I know myself, so I can’t really say if others

share the same memories in the same ways.

 

Looking at the final list, there are sooo many songs that I love that did not make the cut. There

are lots of artists that I cannot believe are not represented. I guess this should not be too

surprising. Think about how hard it is to make a top 5 list in any given year. There are just so

many artists and songs that I love, it is no wonder that I am almost always listening to, writing

about, or photographing music. Out of the 104 songs chosen, 8 are from bands that appear

twice. Those are obviously among my all-time favorites, and they are among the ones who

have meant the most to me throughout my life. They are Alice In Chains, Candlebox, Creed,

Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Rush and Shinedown.

 

Act I

  1. The 1970’s – The Record Era

I have been wandering this spinning rock for over five decades now. Conveniently for

retrospective purposes, I arrived at the end of the 1960’s, so I can organize my playlists and

analysis by decade. Generally, each decade is defined by the methods most often used to

collect and listen to music. From record albums to cassettes, to Compact Discs (CDs), to

digital files (mostly MP3), to digital streaming services and apps, the song remains the same.

Specifically, I landed on this planet the very same day that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin

landed on the moon. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 made history mere hours after Johnnie Crow

was born in a hospital in Hollis, Queens. The Eagle had landed after a long journey, and the

Crow had begun a journey of his own. Most of my musical memories of the 1970’s revolve

around listening to old records with my Mom or my Dad in our suburban Long Island

basement, and listening to 45’s with my little sister in her bedroom, on a cheap yellow plastic

record player.

 

  1. 1969 – Space Oddity – David Bowie

It is only fitting for a moon baby to start with an astronaut song. I don’t specifically remember

humming along to this in my crib in Flushing, New York, as the Miracle Mets were making their

historic World Series run down the street at Shea Stadium. Actually, not many Americans

remember this first track from all-time great David Bowie from when he first released it. It did

not become a hit in the United States until 1973, when we had moved to the house in Deer

Park in the middle of Long Island that my parents kept for 45 years. It probably did not fully

reach my consciousness until I started listening to the local rock station, 102.3 WBAB Babylon,

on my clock radio. Bowie was a staple on that station, and legendary morning DJ Bob

Buchmann would often wake me up with its sweet sounds throughout the 80’s.

 

The song itself is haunting, mysterious and somewhat disturbing. I often thought about

becoming an astronaut working for NASA. The lyrics to this track were a serious counterweight

to the wonder of space. The fear, loss, desperation and ultimate acceptance of a lonely fate

are all explored within the confines of a musical tour de force. The genius of David Bowie

continues to be appreciated more as time passes on, and this song also grows in stature.

 

My favorite lyric:

“Planet Earth is blue

And there’s nothing I can do”

This line works on many levels. The planet literally looks blue, yet it is also sad from time to

time, as it struggles to survive humanity. There is nothing that the astronaut can do, since

there is nothing to do out in space, yet there is also nothing he can do for anyone on Earth.

 

Space Oddity

Written by David Bowie

Performed by David Bowie

 

Ground Control to Major Tom

Ground Control to Major Tom

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

(Ten) Ground Control (Nine) to Major Tom (Eight, seven)

(Six) Commencing (Five) countdown, engines on

(Four, three, two)

Check ignition (One) and may God’s love (Lift off) be with you

 

This is Ground Control to Major Tom

You’ve really made the grade

And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear

Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare

This is Major Tom to Ground Control

I’m stepping through the door

And I’m floating in a most peculiar way

And the stars look very different today

 

For here am I sitting in my tin can

Far above the world

Planet Earth is blue

And there’s nothing I can do

Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles

I’m feeling very still

And I think my spaceship knows which way to go

Tell my wife I love her very much

She knows

Ground Control to Major Tom

Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong

Can you hear me, Major Tom?

Can you hear me, Major Tom?

Can you hear me, Major Tom?

Can you-

 

-Here am I floating ’round my tin can

Far above the moon

Planet Earth is blue

And there’s nothing I can do

 

  1. 1969 – Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin

Once again, I was not rocking the cradle to Led Zeppelin. They were way too screamy for my

Mom, and far too sexual and occultish for my Dad. I got into Led Zeppelin from WBAB radio,

particularly during their “Get The Led Out” blocks. I began collecting the record albums, thanks

to Columbia House record club’s crazy 8 albums for a penny promotions. Led Zeppelin I and II

both came out in 1969. I prefer “II“ by a small margin over the debut, as it is a more

representative collection of the band that they grew to be. Led Zeppelin is notorious for ripping

off American Blues artists without crediting them. Parts of the song were adapted from Willie

Dixon’s “You Need Love”, recorded by Muddy Waters in 1962. A lawsuit in 1985 was settled

with a payment to Dixon and credit on subsequent releases.

 

”Whole Lotta Love“ is perhaps the most Zeppelin song of all, and it opened the doorway that

allowed Heavy Metal to exist. The combination of riffs, effects, vocal gymnastics, wild man

drumming and intricate bass all combine with the primal urges of love and sex to create a song

that moves you at every level. I don’t remember when headphones were invented. I know it

was long before “beats”, but I am pretty sure that they were invented to listen to Led Zeppelin

II, and particularly “Whole Lotta Love”.

 

My favorite lyric:

“Way down inside, woman, you need love”

Admittedly, this is not the most eloquent lyric ever written. It is the delivery and recording of it

that makes it the highlight. The buildup, the reverse echo, just powerful.

 

Whole Lotta Love

Written by Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones & Willie Dixon

Performed by Led Zeppelin

 

You need coolin’, baby, I’m not foolin’

I’m going to send you back to schoolin’

Way down inside, honey, you need it

I’m goin’ to give you my love

I’m goin’ to give you my love, oh

 

Want a whole lotta love

Want a whole lotta love

Want a whole lotta love

Want a whole lotta love

 

You’ve been learnin’, baby, I’ve been yearnin’

All them good times, baby, baby, I’ve been learnin’

Way, way down inside, honey, you need it

I’m gonna give you my love, ah

I’m goin’ to give you my love, ah, oh

 

Want a whole lotta love

Want a whole lotta love

Want a whole lotta love

Want a whole lotta love

 

You’ve been coolin’, baby, I’ve been droolin’

All the good times, baby, I’ve been misusin’

Way, way down inside, I’m goin’ to give you my love

I’m goin’ to give you every inch of my love

Goin’ to give you my love, hey, alright, yes, sir

 

Want a whole lotta love

Want a whole lotta love

Want a whole lotta love

Want a whole lotta love

 

Way down inside, woman, you need love

Shake for me, girl, I want to be your back door man

Hey! Oh! Hey! Oh! Hey! Oh!

Keep it coolin’, baby

Keep it coolin’, baby

Keep it coolin’, baby

Keep it coolin’, baby

Keep it coolin’, baby

 

  1. 1970 – Paranoid – Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath is widely acknowledged for creating the genre of Heavy Metal. “Paranoid” is

probably the most succinct example. Driving beat, chugging riff, impassioned vocals. When it

came out, I was shaking my cradle, exercising my vocal chords, trying to understand what

Ozzy Osbourne (and anybody else) was saying. Later on, I would learn a lot more about lyrics

and song titles.

 

It could be argued that the lyrics of the song describe someone who is paranoid, but I did not

make that connection as a kid. I guess I never really knew what the song was called. My Mom

would never have let be bring an album called “Black Sabbath” into the house, so I had only

heard this song on the radio. I knew that it was Sabbath, and I knew it kicked ass, but I didn’t

know what it was called. At the Junior High School talent show, we had a rock band who

played it, which was clearly the highlight of the show. When a friend who hadn’t seen the

performance asked me if they had played “Paranoid”, I said “No. They played a Black Sabbath

song.” See, I had thought that “Destroyer” by The Kinks was called “Paranoid”, since they

actually said the word paranoia in the chorus. How embarrassing, when another friend

explained that the song was indeed called “Paranoid”.

 

The lyrics themselves are very personal to me. I gravitated to rock music for the sound and the

messages. Unfortunately, a lot of these lines have directly applied to me throughout my life.

 

My favorite lyric:

“I need someone to show me the things in life that I can’t find.

I can’t see the things that make true happiness, I must be blind.”

I have often wondered if I was creating my own prison by choice, or if I just wasn’t seeing what

everyone else appeared to be seeing. I want to be happy and satisfied, so I don’t think I

intentionally avoid those things. I actually believe that I think about and see *more* things than

most people do, and see how bad things can go, way before they actually do. My struggle is to

figure out if there is a way to avoid things going down the dark path. In most cases, I have no

influence over events, so the battle becomes identifying which things I can influence. Writing

this, it is starting to sound like a version of the serenity prayer. Serenity is definitely the other

side of the paranoia coin.

 

Geezer Butler ©2019 Johnnie Crow Photos

Paranoid

Written by Bill Ward, Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi & Ozzy Osbourne

Performed by Black Sabbath

 

Finished with my woman ’cause she couldn’t help me with my mind

People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time

All day long, I think of things but nothing seems to satisfy

Think I’ll lose my mind if I don’t find something to pacify

 

Can you help me occupy my brain?

Whoa, yeah

 

I need someone to show me the things in life that I can’t find

I can’t see the things that make true happiness, I must be blind

Make a joke and I will sigh and you will laugh and I will cry

Happiness, I cannot feel and love to me is so unreal

And so, as you hear these words telling you now of my state

I tell you to enjoy life, I wish I could, but it’s too late

 

  1. 1970 – Cracklin’ Rosie – Neil Diamond

Some of the best memories I have of my early childhood with my Dad are listening to records

in our basement. I don’t remember what we were doing down there, but I remember listening

to albums and talking about them. I am sure that we listened to multiple artists, but other than

The Beatles, the only thing I remember listening to is Neil Diamond. Neil had the coolest voice,

attitude for days, and mysterious music.

 

I know that I used to ask my Dad what the heck he was talking about, and I know that he told

me, but I can’t really say that those answers stuck with me. For example, I still don’t know what

a “store-bought woman” is, but he probably made some joke about my Mom loving to go

shopping at the mall, which I suppose makes as much sense as anything else. I definitely

recall giving my Dad a hard time whenever a song had nonsense lyrics, such as “Ba ba ba ba

ba ba ba…”. I used to ask my Dad why they didn’t have enough words invented when he was a

kid. There were all of these “Be bop a lula” and “Ram a lam a ding dong” and “Dip de dip de

dip” and “Shimmy shimmy koko bop” and “Sha la la la la” songs, the only explanation my

young brain could offer was a lack of real words to choose from.

 

My favorite lyric:

“We got all night to set the world right”

This is such a succinct, uplifting message, full of hope, in the middle of a song with loads of attitude.

 

Cracklin’ Rosie

Written by Neil Diamond

Performed by Neil Diamond

 

Aw, Cracklin’ Rosie, get on board

We’re gonna ride

Till there ain’t no more to go

Taking it slow

And Lord, don’t you know

We’ll have me a time with a poor man’s lady

 

Hitchin’ on a twilight train

Ain’t nothing here that I care to take along

Maybe a song

To sing when I want

No need to say please to no man

For a happy tune

Oh, I love my Rosie child

You got the way to make me happy

You and me we go in style

 

Cracklin’ Rose

You’re a store-bought woman

But you make me sing like a guitar hummin’

So hang on to me, girl

Our song keeps runnin’ on

Play it now, play it now

Play it now, my baby

 

Cracklin’ Rosie, make me a smile

Girl, if it lasts for an hour, that’s all right

We got all night to set the world right

Find us a dream that don’t ask no questions

Yeah

 

Oh, I love my Rosie child

You got the way to make me happy

You and me we go in style

 

Cracklin’ Rose

You’re a store-bought woman

But you make me sing like a guitar hummin’

So hang on to me, girl

Our song keeps runnin’ on

Play it now, play it now

Play it now, my baby

Cracklin’ Rosie, make me a smile

Girl, if it lasts for an hour, that’s all right

We got all night

To set the world right

Find us a dream that don’t ask no questions

Ba ba ba ba ba ……

 

  1. 1971 – Imagine – John Lennon

The first murder that I remember is that of John Lennon on December 8, 1980. I was 11 years

old, and it may be the first death that I was aware of. Obviously, I did not know Lennon

personally, but I certainly knew who he was. He had made a comeback that year with his

album “Double Fantasy”, released just weeks before, and I had been listening to that. I had

also gotten into 2 greatest hits albums from The Beatles, the red one and the blue one (did you

have them?). I loved everything he had done with and without The Beatles, and preferred his

songs to McCartney’s by a large margin. I was still young enough to believe in his ideals and

messages of hope and peace.

 

“Imagine” has a beautiful melody, and I am sure that is what had grabbed me in my younger

years. Later, I could analyze the lyrics, which seemed to make perfect common sense to me. I

recall that Howard Hesseman’s character “Johnny Fever” (my favorite of course) on “WKRP in

Cincinnati” had used this song in a classic episode, in which protesters against rock and roll

wanted the station to stop playing songs that it considered “offensive”. Fever used “Imagine” to

argue the point that it was not an anti-religious song that declared that heaven did not exist,

but instead was a challenge to imagine if certain things were different, how people would react

to and treat each other.

 

I was raised as a Catholic, a religion that does not promote critical thinking or questioning of

any kind. It is one of those successful religions that lays out a specific dogma, and excludes

the possibility that any other religion has validity. That never sat well with me, as all religions

are created by man, or at the very least interpreted by man, without proof of evidence. I

suppose in that way, “Imagine” did set me on a path that most religions fear, the path of self

discovery and open questioning. I ended up practicing Unitarian Universalism for a long while,

where any source of enlightenment and inspiration are welcome. I may have even heard this

song performed during a service or two.

 

My favorite lyric:

“You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one“

This is the most enduring and inspiring line, and one I latched onto as a youngster, believing

that even though Lennon had been taken from us far too soon (he was only 4 years older than

my Dad, his son Julian 6 years older than me), he left all of us a path to follow.

 

Imagine

Written by John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Performed by John Lennon

 

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us, only sky

Imagine all the people

Living for today

I

 

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace

You

 

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

 

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world

You

 

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one

 

  1. 1971 – Behind Blue Eyes – The Who

First of all, I don’t have blue eyes, I have brown eyes. It took me a while to latch onto this song,

as I was taking it quite literally. I came to realize that “behind blue eyes” was just a metaphor

for someone who appeared to be happy on the outside, but was struggling within. I have

always had every reason to be happy in general, but I have spent a lot of my life unhappy. I

often think too much, and over analyze. All my life have I looked away… to the future, to the

horizon. Never my mind on where I was. What I was doing. Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi

craves not these things.

 

My Mom always told me “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Roger Daltrey sings Pete Townshend’s words “No one bites back as hard on their anger, none

of my pain and woe can show through.” I have tended to stay quiet and keep things to myself,

feeling that nobody wants to hear about your problems, they are too busy hiding their own.

Rather than stir things up, or cause controversy, I tend to keep things inside, “like a man”, until

they explode in words of anger – spoke or emailed or posted socially. Like the protagonist in

the song, I constantly try to regulate myself, by letting off a little steam, usually through

attempted humor, before things get ugly.

 

In college, The Who was one of our go-to bands, when we were finished playing poker and

pre-gaming, and were about to head out to a party. We would stand on the furniture and

scream along to our favorite songs. One night, one of my roommates personified another line

in the song, a secret nod we would give each other anytime we listened after that. “And if I

swallow anything evil, put your finger down my throat.” That’s what true friends are for!

Recently, I was covering a rock radio convention in Las Vegas, as a photographer. Some of us

were coming down the elevator at the Hard Rock Hotel, when in stepped none other than Pete

Townshend. He asked what we were doing there, we told him it was a rock radio convention,

and he smiled and said “In that case, I should be there!” So true – rock radio would not be what

it was without The Who.

 

My favorite lyric:

“When my fist clenches, crack it open

Before I use it and lose my cool

When I smile, tell me some bad news

Before I laugh and act like a fool”

This is the embodiment of the eternal internal struggle to maintain mental health. Don’t get too

low, and don’t get too high. Let other people help you regulate and support you, in good times

and bad.

 

Behind Blue Eyes

Written by Pete Townshend

Performed by The Who

 

No one knows what it’s like

To be the bad man, to be the sad man

Behind blue eyes

 

No one knows what it’s like

To be hated, to be fated

To telling only lies

 

But my dreams, they aren’t as empty

As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely

My love is vengeance that’s never free

 

No one knows what it’s like

To feel these feelings like I do

And I blame you

 

No one bites back as hard

On their anger, none of my pain and woe

Can show through

 

But my dreams, they aren’t as empty

As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely

My love is vengeance that’s never free

 

When my fist clenches, crack it open

Before I use it and lose my cool

When I smile, tell me some bad news

Before I laugh and act like a fool

 

And if I swallow anything evil

Put your finger down my throat

And if I shiver, please give me a blanket

Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

 

No one knows what it’s like

To be the bad man, to be the sad man

Behind blue eyes

 

  1. 1972 – American Pie – Don McLean

I do remember loving this song as a young kid. Most of it is very upbeat and fun to sing along to.

I had no idea what it was about until later on. “Bye-bye, Miss American Pie” – fun to sing,

still no idea what it means, especially when the movies came out, which definitely had their

own meaning. “Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry” – we had a green Chevy

Nova forever, so I knew what half of that line meant. “But February made me shiver, with every

paper I’d deliver. Bad news on the doorstep” – I had a paper route through junior high and high

school, waking at 6 AM, rain or shine, snow or sun, to deliver the New York Daily News based

in NYC. Newsday is the Long Island paper, which was delivered in the afternoon, totally

interfering with the day, so I had no interest in delivering that. I probably sang “Bad news on

the doorstep” every time The Daily News had a negative headline.

 

Eventually, I figured out what some of the other lyrics meant. The verses refer to songs from

The Beatles, The Stones, The Byrds, The Who, David Bowie and Bob Dylan. Clearly a lot of

this is an homage to those classic bands. The core theme of the song is “The day the music

died.” My Dad told me that this referred to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie

Valens and The Big Bopper, while they were on tour together on February 3, 1959. That tragic

event always brings me to the plane crash that killed members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and also the

plane crash that killed Randy Rhoads. All of which I try not to think about anytime that I fly.

 

Every year while I was in college at the University of Virginia, almost the entire school headed

down to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the week after finals end. We rented big

houses on the beach, and slept on beds, couches, kitchen floors, lounge chairs – whatever was

available. I was in full mix-tape mode all throughout college, making the party cassette mixes

that we played on poker nights or during our massive BYOB daiquiri parties (BYOB = Bring

Your Own Blender – we would burn out several each time). I remember making a mix-tape for

Myrtle Beach, which included “American Pie”. I recall large groups of us sitting by the beach,

drinking until the sun came up, singing this song en masse.

 

This epic song became one of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s best parodies. “Star Wars: Episode I –

The Phantom Menace” was a shaky reboot, and ripe for spoofing. “The Saga Begins” nailed it

perfectly, so perfectly that I sing some of Al’s lyrics, even when listening to the original. I

always try to go to a birthday concert, some time around my actual birthday. Recently, “Weird

Al” performed in San Diego, and I finally got to see him in person. He went through all of his

classics, complete with multiple costume changes. The encore was “The Saga Begins”, played

in its entirety, complete with droids and stormtroopers. Epic!

 

My favorite lyric:

“Do you have faith in God above

If the Bible tells you so?

Now do you believe in rock ‘n roll

Can music save your mortal soul?”

As a recovering Catholic, I have spent a lot of time pondering these types of questions. As a

heavy metal fan, I have felt ostracized and criticized by organized religion. Personally, I have

found more joy, community, understanding and inspiration from rock and roll than from religion.

A person wrote “The Bible”. A person wrote “Crazy Train”. Why should one be universally

accepted as gospel and one be demonized as madness? Maybe it’s not too late to learn how

to love and forget how to hate.

 

American Pie

Written by Don McLean

Performed by Don McLean

 

A long, long time ago

I can still remember

How that music used to make me smile

And I knew if I had my chance

That I could make those people dance

And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver

With every paper I’d deliver

Bad news on the doorstep

I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried

When I read about his widowed bride

But something touched me deep inside

The day the music died

 

So bye-bye, Miss American Pie

Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry

And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey ‘n rye

Singin’, “This’ll be the day that I die”

“This’ll be the day that I die.”

 

Did you write the book of love

And do you have faith in God above

If the Bible tells you so?

Now do you believe in rock ‘n roll

Can music save your mortal soul?

And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that you’re in love with him

‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym

You both kicked off your shoes

Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck

With a pink carnation and a pickup truck

But I knew I was out of luck

The day the music died

 

I started singing

“Bye-bye, Miss American Pie”

Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry

Them good old boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye

Singin’, “This’ll be the day that I die”

“This’ll be the day that I die.”

 

Now for ten years we’ve been on our own

And moss grows fat on a rollin’ stone

But that’s not how it used to be

When the jester sang for the king and queen

In a coat he borrowed from James Dean

And a voice that came from you and me

Oh, and while the king was looking down

The jester stole his thorny crown

The courtroom was adjourned

No verdict was returned

And while Lennon read a book on Marx

The quartet practiced in the park

And we sang dirges in the dark

The day the music died

 

We were singing

“Bye-bye, Miss American Pie”

Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry

Them good old boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye

Singin’, “This’ll be the day that I die”

“This’ll be the day that I die.”

 

Helter skelter in a summer swelter

The birds flew off with a fallout shelter

Eight miles high and falling fast

It landed foul on the grass

The players tried for a forward pass

With the jester on the sidelines in a cast

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume

While the sergeants played a marching tune

We all got up to dance

Oh, but we never got the chance!

‘Cause the players tried to take the field

The marching band refused to yield

Do you recall what was revealed

The day the music died?

 

We started singin’

“Bye-bye, Miss American Pie”

Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry

Them good old boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye

Singin’, “This’ll be the day that I die”

“This’ll be the day that I die.”

 

Oh, and there we were all in one place

A generation lost in space

With no time left to start again

So come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick!

Jack Flash sat on a candlestick, ’cause

Fire is the devil’s only friend

Oh, and as I watched him on the stage

My hands were clenched in fists of rage

No angel born in hell

Could break that Satan’s spell

And as the flames climbed high into the night

To light the sacrificial rite

I saw Satan laughing with delight

The day the music died

 

We were singing

“Bye-bye Miss American Pie”

Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry

Them good old boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye

Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”

“This’ll be the day that I die…”

 

I met a girl who sang the blues

And I asked her for some happy news

But she just smiled and turned away

I went down to the sacred store

Where I’d heard the music years before

But the man there said the music wouldn’t play

And in the streets, the children screamed

The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed

But not a word was spoken

The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most

The father, son, and the holy ghost

They caught the last train for the coast

The day the music died

 

And they were singing

“Bye-bye Miss American Pie”

Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry

And them good old boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye

Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”

“This’ll be the day that I die”

They were singing

“Bye-bye Miss American Pie”

Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry

Them good old boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye

Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die…”

 

  1. 1972 – Rocket Man (I Think  It’s Going To Be A Long Long Time) – Elton John

Everybody loves Elton John, right? My first memory of Elton is from looking at the record

collection that my Uncle had in my grandparents’ house in New Jersey. I was fascinated by the

artwork on the fold out record covers of “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” and

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. My uncle let me borrow them to play at home in the basement. I

soon found out that my parents had other Elton John records. We all loved his songs, even my

sister. When he appeared on “The Muppet Show”, singing “Crocodile Rock” with muppets, that

created another great lasting family memory.

 

“Rocket Man” is an obvious choice for me, since it is so similar to David Bowie’s “Space

Oddity” and I was born the day we landed on the moon, allegedly. Like Bowie’s classic, this

one is haunting musically and lyrically, exploring the isolation and desperation of an

astronaut’s journey. I have always been fascinated by the space program and exploration, but

totally freaked out by the thought of being stuck inside a tiny vehicle that I cannot easily exit.

Elton’s brilliance on the piano exquisitely matches the poetry of his lifelong writing partner

Bernie Taupin, creating a song that instantly captures your attention and captivates.

 

This song made a huge comeback for me when it was used in the dramatic final scene of the

season 3 finale of the TV show “Californication”, starring David Duchovny, AKA Fox Mulder of

“X-Files” fame. This scene is the culmination of a 3 season story arc which finds Hank Moody

literally at rock bottom. The version used is a remix, using acoustic guitar in place of piano.

This is one of the most hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking scenes ever produced.

“Californication” is one of my all time favorites, and was a major inspiration that led me to move

to San Diego.

 

My favorite lyric:

“I think it’s gonna be a long, long time. I’m not the man they think I am at home.”

These words perfectly capture the tone of the exquisitely written, acted and filmed series. It

also is a striking way to capture the emotions of the astronaut in the song.

 

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long Long Time)

Written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin

Performed by Elton John

 

She packed my bags last night, pre-flight

Zero hour: 9:00 a.m

And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then

I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife

It’s lonely out in space

On such a timeless flight

 

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find

I’m not the man they think I am at home

Oh no, no, no

I’m a rocket man

Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find

I’m not the man they think I am at home

Oh no, no, no

I’m a rocket man

Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone

 

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids

In fact, it’s cold as hell

And there’s no one there to raise them if you did

And all this science I don’t understand

It’s just my job five days a week

A rocket man

A rocket man

 

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find

I’m not the man they think I am at home

Oh no, no, no

I’m a rocket man

Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find

I’m not the man they think I am at home

Oh no, no, no

I’m a rocket man

Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone

 

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

 

  1. 1973 – Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Free Bird” is an interesting song, in that it only has 2 verses, yet it is over 9 minutes long. A lot

of that is due to one of the greatest guitar solo outros ever created. The music in this song is

beautiful and haunting throughout – piano, acoustic guitar, slide guitar and electric guitar.

Singer Ronnie Van Zant always sang with such precision that you could instantly feel the

emotions he was conveying.

 

This song is so powerful and beautiful that even my Mom likes it. She has almost never liked

anything I listen to, but I clearly recall listening to this in the car with her, and she actually

enjoyed it, did not change the station, and commented afterwards. In fact, Lynyrd Skynyrd

would also provide our Mommy-Son song, which we danced to at our wedding, their classic

ballad “Simple Man”. I wanted to hear that entire song, so halfway through I had the DJ ask all

the Moms and Sons to join us on the dance floor. That was a special moment.

 

Back to “Free Bird”, it always inspired me, although as a kid you don’t have much freedom to

travel and make your own way. I suppose it was always embedded in my brain, and probably

helped me decide to go away for college. My “safety school” was a New York state school 5

hours from Long Island. I have lived in 5 states, worked in 20 states, and visited 37 states. I

have been to Aruba, Belgium, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Mexico and Spain,

as well as several Caribbean Islands. I absolutely cannot wait to start traveling on again,

‘cause there’s still too many places I’ve got to see.

 

My favorite lyric:

“For I must be traveling on, now

‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see”

As I just mentioned, I love to travel. I have traveled for work, for music, for vacation and for

tradition. Starting at a very young age, we flew to South Carolina every Easter and every

summer to visit my Grandparents. I went away to school, and even from there, made road trips

for concerts, parties, and football bowl games. No matter where I was living, I have gone home

to New York for Christmas almost every year of my life. I have not gone anywhere since

Valentine’s Day of 2020. I have not even left San Diego County in almost a year. This is by far

the longest I have ever gone without exploring, and it is making me restless and uncomfortable.

 

Lynyrd Skynyrd ©2015 Johnnie Crow Photos

Free Bird

Written by Allen Collins & Ronnie Van Zant

Performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd

 

If I leave here tomorrow

Would you still remember me?

For I must be traveling on, now

‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see

 

But if I stay here with you, girl

Things just couldn’t be the same

 

‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now

And this bird you cannot change

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

And the bird you cannot change

And this bird you cannot change

Lord knows, I can’t change

 

Bye, bye, baby, it’s been a sweet love, yeah yeah

Though this feeling I can’t change

But please don’t take it so badly

‘Cause Lord knows I’m to blame

 

But, if I stay here with you, girl

Things just couldn’t be the same

 

‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now

And this bird you’ll never change

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

And the bird you cannot change

And this bird you cannot change

Lord knows, I can’t change

Lord help me, I can’t change

 

Lord, I can’t change

Won’t you fly high, free bird, yeah

 

  1. 1973 – Dream On – Aerosmith

Aerosmith was the go-to band on classic rock stations in the Northeast. By the time I had really

gotten into them, they were in the middle of their “Behind The Music” meltdown, so I figured

that they were just one of those old bands it would have been nice to see. Run-D.M.C. made

them relevant again, with a killer remake of “Walk This Way”. Then they got their act together

in the late 80’s, and made a massive comeback, with “Permanent Vacation”, “Pump”, and “Get

A Grip” delivering some of their greatest songs. The music videos from this era are legendary,

many starring Steven Tyler’s daughter Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone.

 

With their new lease on life and hit after hit in their setlist, Aerosmith have become a touring

machine. I would finally be able to see America’s greatest rock and roll band live in person.

One time, they were playing an amphitheater show in Charlotte, North Carolina with Kid Rock.

My wife was pregnant, and had told me that she was finished with lawn seats, and would only

go to shows if we had seating. As we approached our seats for the show, she noticed that we

were once again walking towards the lawn. She was getting upset, but I showed her that they

did have small bleachers, just 3 rows of them, in the front of the lawn, and we would be dead

center on the top row and able to see the stage perfectly. Halfway through the Aerosmith set,

they had all left the stage. I asked her to turn around, and suddenly we were not on the edge of

the lawn, we were front row center for a small stage which had been built on the lawn. We got

to see 3 songs performed directly in front of us. That stands as one of my favorite concert

experiences.

 

I was fortunate to be able to photograph Aerosmith in 2016 at the KAABOO Del Mar Festival in

San Diego, California. I had a photo pass for every stage except the main stage, but was

allowed to shoot the main stage from the crowd. I decided to find a vantage point on the railing

which would allow me to shoot down the center aisle between the soundboard and the stage. I

got my spot early and stayed there for Third Eye Blind and Lenny Kravitz. Since I was not in

the pit, I did not have to get all of my shots in during the first 3 songs. By being patient, I was

able to get some great shots of Tyler and Perry, and ultimately captured Steven Tyler sitting at

the piano, playing and singing “Dream On”. This was the song that first broke them and it

continues to be an iconic masterpiece.

 

My favorite lyric:

“Everybody’s got their dues in life to pay, yeah”

I have always believed that dreams were great, but you have to put in the work if you have any

hope of achieving them. You have to manifest your own destiny through effort and will.

 

Aerosmith ©2016 Johnnie Crow Photos

Dream On

Written by Steven Tyler

Performed by Aerosmith

 

Every time that I look in the mirror

All these lines on my face getting clearer

The past is gone

It went by like dusk to dawn

Isn’t that the way?

Everybody’s got their dues in life to pay, yeah

 

I know nobody knows

Where it comes and where it goes

I know it’s everybody’s sin

You got to lose to know how to win

 

Half my life’s in books’ written pages

Lived and learned from fools and from sages

You know it’s true

All the things come back to you

 

Sing with me, sing for the year

Sing for the laughter and sing for the tear

Sing with me, it’s just for today

Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away

 

Sing with me, sing for the year

Sing for the laughter and sing for the tear

Sing with me, it’s just for today

Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away

 

Dream on, dream on, dream on

Dream until your dreams come true

Dream on, dream on, dream on

Dream until your dreams come true

Dream on, dream on

Dream on, dream on

Dream on, dream on

Dream on

Aaaaaah!

 

Sing with me, sing for the year

Sing for the laughter and sing for the tear

Sing with me, it’s just for today

Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away

 

Sing with me, sing for the year

Sing for the laughter and sing for the tear

Sing with me, it’s just for today

Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away

 

  1. 1974 – Thank God I’m A Country Boy – John Denver

I also spent a lot of time in the basement with my Mom. She has always had her own taste in

music. I think she may have tried to get my sister and I to listen to musicals and soundtracks,

like “The Sound of Music”, “Doctor Zhivago” and Abba, which probably wasn’t a movie or play

at the time, but certainly had that theatrical quality to it. The artist I most remember us singing

along to while doing laundry, or watching her use the sewing machine, was John Denver.

“Thank God I’m A Country Boy” was the most played track. We didn’t listen to a lot of country

music – Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, John Denver – that’s about it. But we definitely had fun

when we did, and it is a warm memory that I can always access.

 

My favorite lyric:

“So I fiddle when I can and I work when I should”

Curiously, this country classic has the same core message as the rock epic from the year

before. A positive attitude combined with a solid work effort makes you a worthy human being.

Maybe we are as different as some would like us to think. Maybe we are all Donny and Marie.

Maybe we are all a little bit country, and a little bit rock and roll!

 

Thank God I’m A Country Boy

Written by John Martin Sommers

Performed by John Denver

 

Well, life on a farm is kinda laid back

Ain’t much an old country boy like me can’t hack

It’s early to rise, early in the sack

Thank God I’m a country boy

 

Well, a simple kind of life never did me no harm

A-raisin’ me a family and working on the farm

My days are all filled with an easy country charm

Thank God I’m a country boy

 

Well, I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle

When the sun’s coming up, I got cakes on the griddle

And life ain’t nothing but a funny, funny riddle

Thank God I’m a country boy

 

When the work’s all done and the sun’s setting low

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow

The kids are asleep so I keep it kinda low

Thank God I’m a country boy

 

I’d play “Sally Goodin'” all day if I could

But the Lord and my wife wouldn’t take it very good

So I fiddle when I can and I work when I should

Thank God I’m a country boy

 

Well, I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle

When the sun’s coming up, I got cakes on the griddle

And life ain’t nothing but a funny, funny riddle

Thank God I’m a country boy

Whoo

 

Well, I wouldn’t trade my life for diamonds or jewels

I never was one of them money hungry fools

I’d rather have my fiddle and my farming tools

Thank God I’m a country boy

 

Yeah, city folk driving in a black limousine

A lot of sad people thinking that’s a-mighty keen

Well son, let me tell you now exactly what I mean

I thank God I’m a country boy

 

Well, I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle

When the sun’s coming up, I got cakes on the griddle

And life ain’t nothing but a funny, funny riddle

Thank God I’m a country boy

 

Well, my fiddle was my daddy’s till the day he died

And he took me by the hand, held me close to his side

Said, “Live a good life, play my fiddle with pride

Thank God you’re a country boy.”

 

My daddy taught me young how to hunt and how to whittle

He taught me how to work and play a tune on the fiddle

He taught me how to love and how to give just a little

And thank God I’m a country boy

 

Well, I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle

When the sun’s coming up, I got cakes on the griddle

Life ain’t nothing but a funny, funny riddle

Whoo, thank God I’m a country boy, yes!

 

  1. 1974 – Bad Company – Bad Company

To be clear, this is the song “Bad Company”, as written and performed by the band Bad

Company, from the album “Bad Company”, which was produced by Bad Company. Got it?

That always made us laugh. A lot of the songs from the 1970’s got new life in the late 80’s and

early 90’s with the popularity of CD’s. Typically, to save money as a college student, I would

buy greatest hits collections on CD. Bad Company’s “10 From 6” was one of out most played

during poker nights.

 

I finally got to see the band live right before I moved away from Maryland, around 2012 at

something called “Outlaw Jam” or something like that. It was out in Western Maryland,

featuring Bad Company, Blue Oyster Cult and Black Stone Cherry. In keeping with the Outlaw

vibe, they also had the cast of a new TV series about a biker gang in Northern California.

Unfortunately, I had not yet realized that “Sons Of Anarchy” was one of the greatest TV

dramas of all time, and I did not participate in that part of the event. Musically, it was a very

special night.

 

One of the other reasons that this song is so important is that Five Finger Death Punch made it

their own at their live shows. I have covered and photographed so many 5FDP shows over the

past decade, and their heavy version of this classic, which they always dedicate to our Armed

Forces, is always a highlight. YEAH!!

 

My favorite lyric:

“Rebel souls, deserters we are called”

This reminded me of “Star Wars”, which made me think that rebels were cool, and the good

ones in a conflict, which also made the rebel flag seem cool. No, wait, “The Dukes of Hazzard”

made the rebel flag seem cool, painted on the roof of the General Lee orange 1969 (great

year!) Dodge Charger. Possibly, it was Daisy Duke and her shorts that made the whole show

seem cool. In any event, Paul Rodgers delivers that line so smoothly, it makes this whole song

sound cool.

 

Bad Company

Written by Paul Rodgers & Simon Kirke

Performed by Bad Company

 

Mmm

Company, always on the run

Destiny, is a rising sun

Oh, I was born six-gun in my hand

Behind a gun, I’ll make my final stand, hey

That’s why they call me

 

Bad company and I can’t deny

Bad company ’til the day I die

Oh, ’til the day I die

‘Til the day I die

 

Rebel souls, deserters we are called

Chose a gun and threw away the sun

Now these towns, they all know our name

Six-gun sound is our claim to fame

I can hear them say

 

Bad company and I won’t deny

Bad, bad company ’til the day I die

Ha, ha, oh yeah

‘Til the day I die, ooh

Oh

 

Hey, hey, hey

Bad company, I can’t deny

Bad company ’til the day I die

And I say it’s bad company

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Bad company ’til the day I die

Whoa yes

 

Said I’m young and I’m free

Oh, but I’m-a bad company

That’s the way I play, yeah

Dirty for dirty, heh

Oh, somebody double-crossed me

Double-cross for double-cross

Yeah, we’re bad company

 

My Life In Music, Part 1, 1969 – 1974 first appeared on Game On Media.

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