I think it was Joe Walsh who said, ‘I was born in the city, my back against the wall. Nothin’ grows and life ain’t pretty. No one’s there to catch you when you fall.’ Yeah, well, they say there are eight million stories in the naked city, Joe, and today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl is just one of them. It’s an unsentimental soundtrack about crime, violence, and the urban nightmare. A hardboiled set of circumstances dropped onto the turntable and played out smack in the middle of the concrete jungle. That’s right, it’s hot time, summer in the city, when the back of your neck gets dirt and gritty. Like it says in the Bible: Woe to the bloody city! It’s all full of lies and robbery. The prey departeth not. Or as Stevie Wonder said, it’s a place that’s cruel and couldn’t be much colder. This one got started when I realized I had three songs that used urban sound effects, like sirens, car horns, and jack hammers. An unlikely trio: Stevie Wonder, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and America. But I figured out how to dice and splice ‘em into a tasty urban mix. So be sure to keep your ears open for all those honking horns as mix between the three.
Before we get there, we’ll hear “City, Country, City” and the definitive urban theme song, “Shaft.” So yeah, this one’s all about the big, bloody city, teeming with rootless and uprooted people, low lifes and bad attitudes. A place where danger lurks around every corner. Hey, it’s a jungle out there. Nothing but con men and thieves, pimps and hustlers. Greedy landlords, corrupt cops, and political fixers. A place where everything’s for sale and anybody can be bought. Carol Leifer had a great line about the ultimate city, New York. She said, “It’s the only city where people make radio requests like, ‘This is for Tina. I’m sorry I stabbed you.’” From the Way Back Studios, here’s our ode to life in the big city.
|War||City, Country, City (part 1)|
|War||City, Country, City (part 2)|
|Stevie Wonder||Living For The City (part 1)|
|Lovin’ Spoonful||Summer in the City (part 1)|
|Stevie Wonder||Living For The City (part 2)|
|Lovin’ Spoonful||Summer in the City (part 2)|
|Stevie Wonder||Living For The City (part 3)|
|Lovin’ Spoonful||Summer in the City (part 3)|
|Bob Seger System||Dr. Fine|
From the East Coast to the West, life in the big city has inspired a lot of artists to write songs about urban existence and we just heard a few good examples. That was America singing about “Hollywood.” Before that, we spent ten minutes mixing back and forth between the social commentary of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City.” We broke the two songs into six parts and had our way with them, proving once again that it’s not just what we play, it’s how we play it. “Summer in the City” started out as a poem written by John Sebastian’s brother, Mark, while in high school. When they turned it into a song, John added some darker lyrics at the top to provide contrast to the more upbeat chorus. Band member Steve Boone added a piano part and those city sound effects and the song went straight to number one. All around, people looking half dead, walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head. What a great lyric.
We started the set with the opening couple of minutes of War’s “City, Country, City” before mixing over to a song so urban, it didn’t need the word city in the title. Instead it had that black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks. “Shaft” from the late, great Isaac Hayes, also known as Chef on South Park. Can you dig it? Following “Shaft” we returned to the body of “City, Country, City” with Lee Oscar on harmonica, Charles Miller on sax, Lonnie Jordon on organ, and Howard Scott on guitar. Well, we just hit the city limits on this one. Hope you enjoyed it. If you’re looking for the set lists or the show commentaries, we’ve got ‘em posted somewhere on billfitzhugh .com. Drop by and poke around ‘till you find ‘em. Or send me an email, I’ll point you in the right direction. I’m Bill Fitzhugh and I’ll be back with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl in a New York minute and I hope you’ll join us right here in the Deep Tracks.