Gonna sit down in the kitchen, fix me something good to eat

Everybody needs love, so it’s not surprising it’s probably the number one topic for popular song lyrics.  Everybody needs food too, so it stands to reason there would be tons images-76of songs about food as well, but that’s just not the case.

Rock bands, by and large, have rarely written any songs that mention food in the title, let alone as the focal point of the lyrics.  It seems that most times you encounter song lyrics about food, it’s a whimsical country tune, and it’s more likely to be about a Southern guy or gal who refers to the other by a food-oriented nickname!

Consequently, the songs about food I’ve compiled here reflect those tendencies.  The first few are examples of songs that mention food in a euphemistic way, while the rest actually celebrate the foods themselves.

Eat up!

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“Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie,” Jay & The Techniques, 1967

R-7533533-1478705308-5117.jpegSongwriter Maurice Irby Jr. came up with this catchy tune in which the title really has nothing to do with the food items mentioned.  “I was working on lyrics while sitting in a diner, and I saw ‘Apple, peach, pumpkin pie’ listed as dessert choices on the menu,” he recalled.  “I thought the phrase rolled off the tongue so nice.  I just made ’em plural and used it as the title.”  The recording of it by Jay and The Techniques zoomed to #6 in the summer of 1967:  “Apples peaches pumpkin pie, you were young and so was I, now that we’ve grown up, it seems you just keep ignoring me, I’ll find you anywhere you go, I’ll follow you high and low, you can’t escape this love of mine anytime…”

“Lollipop,” The Chordettes, 1958

Lollipop-English-2014-500x500The Wisconsin-based female choral quartet known as The Chordettes got their start singing traditional folk music, but by the mid-’50s, they chose to focus on close-harmony tunes sung a cappella.  They had eight Top 20 chart entries between 1954-1961, but their two biggest claims to fame were the #1 smash “Mr. Sandman” in 1954 and the #2 hit “Lollipop” in 1958, which uses the popular candy as a nickname for a boyfriend:  “Call my baby lollipop, tell you why, his kiss is sweeter than an apple pie, and when he does his shaky rockin’ dance, man, I haven’t got a chance, I call him, lollipop, lollipop…”

“Ice Cream Man,” Tom Waits, 1973

35c9a4b0-d4dd-3e6f-87fd-2185519296e2_6c5bWaits’ brilliant debut LP “Closing Time” is full of ballads and mournful melodies, but one exception is the upbeat ditty “Ice Cream Man,” in which he plays the role of a street vendor offering literal and/or figurative ice cream treats to the young lady he’s wooing:  “I’ll be clickin’ by your house about two forty-five, sidewalk sundae, strawberry surprise, I got a cherry popsicle right on time, a big stick, mama, that’ll blow your mind, ’cause I’m the ice cream man, I’m a one-man band, yeah, I’m the ice cream man, honey, I’ll be good to you…”

“Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes),” Dee Dee Sharp, 1962

dee-dee-sharp-gravy-for-my-mashed-potatoes-cameo-sIn 1962, R&B singer Sharp was a sensation with five Top Ten singles, two of which capitalized on the popular Twist-like dance move known as the Mashed Potato, where dancers would grind their feet into the dance floor as if mashing potatoes.  In the lyrics to “Gravy,” Sharp says she needs more than just dancing, she needs romancing as well:  “I dig this twistin’ but I want some more, there’s somethin’ missin’ while we’re on the floor, come on baby, I want some gravy, a little kissing’s what I’m waiting for, gimme gravy on my mashed potatoes…”

“Pulling Mussels (From a Shell),” Squeeze, 1980

81ZLUjq0kRL._SX355_Chris Difford, Squeeze’s lyricist partner with songwriter Glenn Tilbrook, said he wrote the words to this tune almost as a journal entry, telling about his vacation day by the shore as a teenager in his native England.  “It’s not about food, not really.  It’s about being horny with someone at summer camp, which, let’s be honest, was beautiful and true the first time we encountered it.  It’s a sweet memory about finding something beautiful and pure in the middle of a sea of banality”:  “Behind the chalet, my holiday’s complete, and I feel like William Tell, Maid Marian on her tiptoed feet pulling mussels from a shell…”

“Beans and Corn Bread,” Louis Jordan, 1949

Unknown-63Jordan and his jump-blues band The Tympany Five were hugely popular in the juke joints as well as some of the tonier clubs in bigger cities when they could get gigs there.  Many of the early rock and roll pioneers credit Jordan for writing songs that inspired them to compose their own brand of irresistible dance music.  This one used food pairings to emphasize the need for couples to stick together:  “Beans and corn bread, hand-in-hand, that’s what beans said to corn bread, ‘We should stick together, hand in hand, we should hang out together like wieners and sauerkraut, we should stick together like hot dogs and mustard…'”

“Sweet Potato Pie,” James Taylor, 1988

71Y6s6uFdIL._SY355_North Carolina-born Taylor no doubt ate his share of sweet potato pie in his youth.  For his high-spirited song by that name from his 1988 album “Never Die Young,” Taylor sings about a girl the narrator knew years earlier who ends up as his delicious ladyfriend decades later:   “I’m glad I had to wait awhile, a little bit too juvenile, I needed to refine my style, a silk suit and a crocodile smile, so let the whole damn world go by ’cause I just want to testify, from now on, it’s me and my sweet potato pie…”

“Cheeseburger in Paradise,” Jimmy Buffett, 1978

Unknown-64Buffett’s famous tune, which became the name of his lucrative restaurant chain as well, speaks of how it’s no fun dieting and eating healthy foods all the time, not when what he really wants is a good old-fashioned American favorite, which he describes in delirious detail:  “I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes, big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer, well, good god almighty, which way do I steer for my cheeseburger in paradise?…”

“Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” Hank Williams, 1952

Unknown-65Jambalaya is a spicy, Louisiana-based dish of sausage, crawfish vegetable and rice, and Williams’ song honoring its savory flavor was written to be delivered as a Cajun two-step tune.  He chose to dilute it somewhat to make it more palatable to a mass market, which was the right move — it held the #1 spot on the country charts for 13 weeks in 1952, and crooner Jo Stafford’s cover peaked at #3 on the pop charts that same year.  Other major artists covering the song in the years since include Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Fogerty, The Carpenters, Emmylou Harris and Van Morrison:  “Jambalaya, crawfish pie and fillet gumbo, for tonight I’m gonna see my cher ami-o, pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-o, son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou…”

“Savoy Truffle,” The Beatles, 1968

Unknown-66George Harrison wrote this track from “The White Album” about his pal Eric Clapton, who had such an addiction to sweets that it caused him plenty of trips to the dentist to have teeth pulled.  Harrison mentions several yummy European candy specialties that ultimately made his friend’s life miserable:  “Creme tangerine and montelimar, a ginger sling with a pineapple heart, a coffee dessert, yes, you know it’s good news, but you’ll have to have them all pulled out after the Savoy truffle…”

“Coconut,” Harry Nilsson, 1972

images-75This was essentially a novelty tune that made it all the way to #6 in the summer/fall of 1972.  Nilsson wrote it as a doctor’s whimsical remedy for a hangover, combining coconut and lime in a big glass:  “You put the lime in the coconut, you drink ’em both together, put the lime in the coconut, then you feel better, put the lime in the coconut, drink ’em both up, put the lime in the coconut, and call me in the morning…”

“Banana Pancakes,” Jack Johnson, 2005

Unknown-67The hedonistic life of surfer Jack Johnson comes through in much of his music, which encourages enjoying life’s pleasures, laying around in a hammock, on the beach, or in bed.  Johnson urges his girlfriend to remain in the sack on a cool cloudy weekday while he makes her a plate of her favorite breakfast:  “Baby, you hardly even notice when I try to show you this song is meant to keep ya from doing what you’re supposed to, waking up too early, maybe we can sleep in, make you banana pancakes, pretend like it’s the weekend now…”

“Polk Salad Annie,” Tony Joe White, 1969

Unknown-68Pokeweed grows in the wild in the woods down South, and White recalled often eating cooked dishes made of it “when there wasn’t much else in the fridge.”  Sallet is an old English word that means “cooked greens,” not to be mistaken for “salad,” but in fact, White’s record company did just that when they changed his song from “Poke Sallet Annie” to “Polk Salad Annie.”  It reached #8 in 1969:  “Down there we have a plant that grows out in the woods and in the fields, looks somethin’ like a turnip green, and everybody calls it poke sallet, poke sallet, used to know a girl lived down there, and she’d go out in the evenings and pick her a mess of it, carry it home and cook it for supper..”

“Butterbean,” The B-52s, 1983

Unknown-69Hailing from the college town of Athens, Georgia, was the quirky punk/New Wave band known as The B-52s, known especially for their dance club classics, “Love Shack” and “Good Stuff.”  Early on, songs like “Rock Lobster” and “Butterbean” were more the order of the day, and the latter celebrated the traditional Southern snack favorite:  “Gramps and grannies, kids in their teens, junkyard dogs and campus queens, yeah, everybody likes butterbeans… Pass me a plate-full, I’ll be grateful, 1-2-3-4, pick ’em, hull ’em, put on the steam, that’s how we fix butterbeans…”

“RC Cola and a Moon Pie,” NRBQ, 1972

Unknown-70NRBQ (New Rhythm & Blues Quartet) was a Kentucky-based band founded in 1966 that merged rock, pop, jazz, blues and Tin Pan Alley styles, playing mostly small clubs but occasionally opening for bigger bands like Poco or R.E.M.  A concert favorite was “RC Cola and a Moon Pie,” an old Bill Lister tune from the Fifties about Royal Crown Cola (a regional competitor of Coke and Pepsi) and a Moon Pie (essentially a s’more — two graham crackers with marshmallow in between, covered in chocolate).  It was known as “a working man’s lunch” throughout the South:  “I don’t want no cornbread, and I can do without peas and rice, I don’t want no carrots or no real hot pizza slice, but everything’s gonna be all right with an RC Cola and a moon pie…”

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Honorable mention:  “One Bad Apple,” The Osmonds, 1971;  “Tangerine,” Led Zeppelin, 1970;  “Strawberry Fields Forever,” The Beatles, 1967;  “Tupelo Honey,” Van Morrison, 1971;  “Sugar Sugar,” The Archies, 1969;  “Blueberry Hill,” Fats Domino, 1957;  “30,000 Pounds of Bananas,” Harry Chapin, 1974;  “Dixie Chicken,” Little Feat, 1973;  “Buttered Popcorn,” The Supremes, 1961.

 

Let your voice ring back my memories

When I go deep diving for “lost classics” in my collection of 1,800 vinyl albums and CDs, I often lean more toward the uptempo rock music I favored much of the time.  Just as important to me, though, were the acoustic strains of the early ’70s singer-songwriter era, a time when I was learning to play guitar so I could perform them at parties and school variety shows.

Popular-Guitar-Chord-SongsI certainly didn’t learn how to play all of them, but the songs of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills & Nash, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens and others will always have a soft spot in my heart.  They wrote such lovely melodies and piercing lyrics that speak so tenderly of the human condition we all must navigate.

For this week’s post on the blog, I’ve decided to focus exclusively on songs from that genre and that period.  The forgotten deep tracks from these artists’ albums were great then and are just as mesmerizing now as I’m helping you rediscover them.  Crank up the Spotify playlist and pay attention as these tunes gently wash over you.

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“One Man Parade,” James Taylor, 1972

536d9e4fe675fabdea3ff2be2348bc23.800x800x1Both his “Sweet Baby James” and “Mud Slide Slim” albums had been recorded in L.A. studios, but for his next effort, “One Man Dog,” he decided to record in his new homemade studio in a barn next to his homemade house on Martha’s Vineyard.  He had written a dozen or so short songs, intending to tie them together in an “Abbey Road”-like manner, and the result was compelling, but he also had a couple of standard-length tunes that might get Top 40 radio play.  Sure enough, “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” reached #12 on the charts, but the follow-up single, “One Man Parade,” inexplicably died on the vine at #67.  It’s one of Taylor’s most carefree tunes, with a charming melody and lyrics about how his dog is exactly the kind of friend he’s looking for — loyal, easygoing, enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

“To Each His Own,” America, 1972

AmericaHomecomingDewey Bunnell, Dan Peek and Gerry Beckley comprised America, a talented trio of singer-songwriters who had great success on the charts in the early ’70s — “A Horse With No Name,” “I Need You,” “Ventura Highway,” “Lonely People,” “Sister Golden Hair.”  The albums these songs came from were chock full of more acoustic melodies and CSN-like harmonies that have pretty much been forgotten over the years.  On their second LP “Homecoming,” you can find the amazing John Martin song “Head and Heart” and Peek’s minor hit “California Revisited” and country-inflected “Don’t Cross the River,” but my favorite is the simple melody of “To Each His Own,” Beckley’s song of a romance that is ending even though the love endures.

“The Lonely One,” Dave Mason, 1973

it-s-like-you-never-left-albums-photo-u1As one of the founders of the British folk-jazz-rock group Traffic, Mason was quickly overshadowed by Steve Winwood and decided to head out on his own instead.  His solo debut LP “Alone Together” is considered one of the finer albums of 1970, but Mason found himself mired in a struggle with his foundering label Blue Thumb, losing career momentum in the process.  When he signed with Columbia and released “It’s Like You Never Left” in 1973, he began a run of six successful albums and nearly non-stop touring throughout the ’70s, peaking with the platinum “Let It Flow” LP and Top Ten single “We Just Disagree” in 1977.  At least a dozen Mason tracks qualify as lost classics, and this go-around, I’ve picked the acoustic gem “The Lonely One” from the 1973 album.  Dig Stevie Wonder’s excellent harmonica here!

“Barangrill,” Joni Mitchell, 1972

image_10135e2c-0d61-4e71-8787-061f9ee8e993In every discussion of Mitchell’s repertoire, everyone focuses on her confessional masterpiece “Blue” from 1971 or her pop-jazz pinnacle “Court and Spark” from 1974.  Me, I’ve always been partial to the album in between these two, 1972’s “For the Roses,” mostly because I discovered it during an emotional time when I was able to absorb her music non-stop through headphones.  Again, I could have selected any of nine of the 12 tunes on this amazing record (“Banquet,” “For the Roses,” “See You Sometime”), but I was moved to go with “Barangrill,” a perceptive study of the regulars and employees at the nation’s truck-stop diners.

“Where Do the Children Play?”, Cat Stevens, 1970

51yt4ogh5wL._SX466_So many of my generation were instantly captivated by the music of Cat Stevens when his “Tea for the Tillerman” album arrived in late 1970, sparked by the hit single “Wild World.”  Stevens (who later embraced Islam and changed his name to Yusef) had released three earlier albums that were ignored in the U.S., but that changed in a hurry with “Tillerman.”  “Father and Son” emerged as an underground favorite, and pretty much every song here qualifies as a lost classic.  My candidate would have to be “Where Do the Children Play?”, one of the first songs I remember hearing that decried the spoiling of the planet and our environment.

“One Of These Things First,” Nick Drake, 1971

220px-Bryter_LayterDrake’s tragic story of sublime talent tortured by stage fright and clinical depression wasn’t well known during his short life, which ended in suicide in 1974.  He made just three albums, all critically acclaimed, but he wasn’t appreciated more deeply until the new millennium.  Like many folks, I discovered Drake from the use of his song “Pink Moon” in a TV commercial ten years ago, and consequently picked up a wonderful anthology CD featuring a robust cross-section of his repertoire.  The song that grabbed me instantly, originally found on his “Bryter Later” album, is “One of These Things First,” a beautiful piano-and-guitar melody carried by Drake’s feather-light voice.  If you’re not familiar with Drake’s work, here’s a great place to start.

“Peace Like a River,” Paul Simon, 1972

R-3055486-1372780911-7597.jpegAs a huge fan of Simon and Garfunkel, I was very disappointed when Simon chose to give his partner the heave-ho and go solo following the stratospheric success of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”  Their friendship endured in an on-again-off-again way, but Simon was far more interested in exploring the rhythms and musical textures of other lands than Garfunkel was.  The reggae feel of “Mother and Child Reunion” and the peppy Latino beat of “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” are the two most notable examples to be found on the “Paul Simon” solo debut LP.  Buried on side 2 is “Peace Like a River,” which sounded to me like the album track that would have fit quite nicely on any S&G album.

“Minstrel Of the Dawn,” Gordon Lightfoot, 1970

R-1361049-1285558009.jpegThe acoustic guitar work, strong vocals and delightful songwriting that have marked Lightfoot’s lengthy career as a recording artist were at their most simple and direct on his breakthrough LP, “If You Could Read My Mind.”  That album’s title tune reached #5 and made a fan out of me, but there were another 4-5 songs on the LP that I found just as engaging.  One is “Minstrel of the Dawn,” a lovely piece that describes the life of a traveling troubadour, offering a lively string arrangement that augments Lightfoot’s dextrous finger-picking and strong baritone vocals.

“Johnny’s Garden,” Manassas, 1972

Manassas-by-Stephen-StillsCritics called Stephen Stills’ band’s double LP “a sprawling masterpiece,” with an impressive diversity of rock, folk, country, blues, Latin and bluegrass music.  Side 3 of “Manassas” focuses on folk and folk rock, and the centerpiece is the lost classic “Johnny’s Garden,” written by Stills in honor of the gardener who tended to the extensive grounds at the English manor Stills once owned.  The song is perhaps the simplest on the album, with an arrangement limited to Stills’ guitar, Fuzzy Samuels’ bass and some light drums from Dallas Taylor.  It’s one of Stills’ most engaging songs, harking back to the tunes he was writing when with Crosby, Nash and Young.

“Seagull,” Bad Company, 1974

220px-BadCompanyBadCompanyKnown far and wide as a straightforward British rock band, Bad Company hit a home run with their debut LP in 1974, which topped the charts in the U.S. and spawned three singles.  Buried amidst the solid rock and roll of “Can’t Get Enough,” “Ready for Love” and “Movin’ On” is an evocative track called “Seagull” that features vocalist Paul Rodgers humming and singing along to his own acoustic guitar accompaniment.  I always wondered if Rodgers might have had any more songs like this tucked up his sleeve that were never recorded…  A tip of the hat to my friend Ray for turning me on to this fine song when he sang it often around the campfire.

“Bitter With the Sweet,” Carole King, 1972

220px-CKRhymesKing’s “Tapestry” LP was the early ’70s biggest success story, selling 20 million copies and reigning supreme on the charts for most of 1971.  The two albums that followed — “Music” and “Rhymes and Reasons” — carried on in the same vein as “Tapestry,” with similar heartfelt lyrics and easygoing piano-based melodies.  The singles “Sweet Seasons” and “Been to Canaan” did well, and the albums reached #1 and #2 respectively, but how often do you hear Carole King any more, besides “It’s Too Late”?  Such a treasure trove of fine tunes on these albums.  I’ve always been fond of “Bitter With the Sweet,” carried by Charles Larkey’s bouncing bass line and Bobbye Hall’s spritely bongos, congas and tambourine.  King’s lyrics tell of the importance of learning how to accept the bad with the good that life has to offer.

“Warmth of Your Eyes,” Lazarus, 1971

603497980567-1Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary was on tour in 1971 supporting his solo debut LP when a struggling singer-songwriter named Bill Hughes approached him after a gig and invited him to his home nearby.  Yarrow agreed and was then exposed to a demo tape of Hughes’ music, performed by his three-piece group Lazarus.  “I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the songs — music and lyrics — and the stunning harmonies,” said Yarrow, who helped the group secure a recording contract.  Sadly, inexplicably, Lazarus never did break through, throwing in the towel after only two albums, but I’m here to tell you their music is superb, and well worth your time.  I could have selected any of a half-dozen tracks from their debut LP, but I’m going with “Warmth of Your Eyes” for its gentle, spiritual vibe and gorgeous harmonies.

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