Too bad Jethro Tull never did train songs

Roy Acuff

Roy Acuff (Image via Wikipedia)

There is a long history of songs that memorialize our uniquely American fixation with trains.  Of course, there are many that date back to before the development of sound recording, but some of our greatest musical bards recorded songs about trains and the unique experiences that come with traveling the rails.  Now, a buddy of mine from my hometown of Cairo who works on freight trains passed through Carbondale just prior to the start of the show, and that inspired me to plug in some music that fits into a train theme to start the show.

So we started with two separate recordings by John and June Carter Cash.  We heard Johnny Cash doing his concert favorite Orange Blossom Special, from 1964, and then we heard June Carter Cash’s solo recording of The L&M Don’t Stop Here Anymore, also from 1964.  We then heard three songs from Roy Acuff, including a concert favorite of his, Wabash Cannonball (a traditional song which is often mistakenly credited to A.P. Carter, who may have added new lyrics).  We also heard from Hank Snow, before ending the set with an early Sons of the Pioneers classic, Way Out There.

I do enjoy playing live recordings, and when I do so I like to play the songs as they would have been heard, that is, to play a good, 4-5 song set from that show.  My feeling is that this gives us the opportunity to get a better grasp on the performer’s style and manner of presentation.  Tonight we heard a lovely 5 song set from Jethro Tull‘s Isle of Wight Festival appearance in 1970, which included My God, which had just been finished and was yet unreleased (it came out the next year on the Aqualung album).  The recording that we hear here was only released in 2004 as a separately released companion cd to a video dvd of the same performance, with a few songs available on the audio cd that are not found in the dvd (you will notice the listed recording label on the recording – it is the same distributor that distributed the dvd).  What we are left with is an excellent performance at a historically important event, definitely worthy of a detailed listen.  Check out the clip of that night’s performance of My God below, and take note of the surprise melodies that he quotes within his flute solo.

While we were listening to the Jethro Tull set, I received a call from a listener who wanted to hear some more Sons of the Pioneers.  While I do not have the specific song that he requested (I believe it was “Cigareetes, Whusky, and Wild, Wild Women”), I was able to oblige him with a nice set with some excellent samplings from their pre-1945 catalog.  I get so much pleasure from listening to the close harmony that you get in some of these songs, but one may also notice the excellent instrumental arrangements on these songs, especially from the two 1940s recordings.

In the early days of “The Galaxy”, I used the opening section of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra as a sort of “theme song” for the show.  Of course, the piece goes beyond the dramatic opening (which was also used for the opening sequence of the Stanley Kubrick classic 2012: A Space Odyssey), and in fact is quite a gorgeous piece of music that I like to play from time to time.

We closed out the show with a couple classics from Electric Light orchestra.  As it turns out, both of my selections were from the 1977 double album Out Of The Blue, although that wasn’t intended.

Below is the full playlist.  The original playlist can be found at my website.

Composer Performer Title Genre Label
Johnny Cash
Orange Blossom Special
Country, Classic
Columbia, 1964
June Carter Cash
The L&M Don’t Stop Here Anymore
Columbia, 1964
Beasley Smith/Marvin Hughs
Roy Acuff
Night Train to Memphis
Columbia, 1942
Freight Train Blues
Columbia, 1947
A.P. Carter
Wabash Cannonball
Columbia, 1947
Geoff Mack
Hank Snow
I’ve Been Everywhere
RCA, 1962
Bob Nolan
The Sons of the Pioneers
Way Out There
MCA, 1934
Jethro Tull
My Sunday Feeling
Rock, Classic, Blues-rock, Progressive
Eagle, 2004
My God
With You There to Help Me
To Cry You A Song
Maury Spence
Sons of the Pioneers
When Our Old Age Pension Check Comes To Our Door
Country, Classic, Country-Western
MCA, 1935
Tim Spencer
When The Moon Comes Over Sun Valley
MCA, 1941
Gene Autry, Fred Rose, Ray Whitley
I Hang My Head and Cry
MCA, 1943
Richard Strauss
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, Hartmut Haenchen, cond.
Also Sprach Zarathustra
Classical, post-Romantic era, tone poem, music for symphonic orchestra
LaserLight, 1995
Electric Light Orchestra
Mr. Blue Sky
Rock, Classic, Progressive
Jet, 1977
Turn To Stone

One comment on “Too bad Jethro Tull never did train songs

  1. As always, your playlists are a high-water mark for WDBX. Congrats on another fine show, Doug!

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