Influential Albums – Day 3

Neil Young – Decade

So, another compilation. Twice in this 10 day span I’ve done that, but again, this is how I was introduced to a very important musical figure in my life. My friend, Craig Pickel (yep) introduced me to Neil on many rides in her (yep) little Honda CRX. Decade on the tape deck, wings or chips and salsa from Jaggers in our bellies, and Life as the conversation topic.

Neil changed the way I played guitar. By the time I started listening to him, I guess I’d been playing for 3 years or so. So many of the people I listened to had lots of effects and weird chords and were technically much more advanced than I was. When I got Neil Young Complete Music Volume 2 I saw chords that I knew and could play with no problem. There were a bunch of songs I hadn’t heard yet in that book so I bought the Decade songbook and just went to town. Both acoustic and electric, Neil pretty much kept things pretty simple. Even the finger picking he did on “Sugar Mountain” and “The Needle and the Damage Done” were straight ahead enough that I could figure it out. I never learned to read music, but I remember sitting down and figuring out the guitar part of “Ohio” from CSNY. I had a little music reading knowledge and took what I had and wrote down the notes to learn it.

I played A LOT of Neil Young on guitar. I was up in Athens finishing school and like a lot of guys up there, I had thoughts, dreams, fantasies about playing guitar in Athens and then…the world. Well, everybody’s got to start somewhere and I tried to play out at a few places, pizza places, open mics, coffee houses. I’d play some Neil, some R.E.M., a Beatles song or two then inevitably somebody would call out, “Play ‘Margaritaville’.” I’d say I didn’t know it. “Well play ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ then.” I’d say I didn’t know that one either. “What do you know, then?” I know a lot of Neil Young. So, I didn’t play too many of those places. Also, I did know those songs, but that’s not what I was into, so I didn’t play them.

As time went on I delved into Neil’s catalog and starting getting more of his releases. Neil Young & the Blue Notes, This Note’s For You was one of the first records I bought when I started buying albums again. I thought it was pretty cool, I dug the horns (still do!) I had kept up with his struggles with Geffen Records and knew that he had gotten back on Reprise Records.

One of my favorite cassettes that I have of his is Comes a Time. It’s funny because I don’t think there are any of those songs on Decade. I’ll end this with one of my favorite lines from one of Neil’s Buffalo Springfield songs, “Mr Soul”, “She said you’re strange, but don’t change and I let her.”

What it could have been

The Allman Brothers Band – Beginnings

As much as I loved Neil Young, I would have totally been Duane Allman. Holy cow! I’ve put this down before, but if The Allman Brothers Band never made another album after their first one, they still would be regarded as pivotal musicmakers. The interplay between Duane and Dickey, the drumming of Butch and Jaimoe, the thumping bass of Barry, and Greg on the Hammond, well, there you go. This album, cassette, CD spent a lot of time on my different players during my hippie wanna be period, as did some other jam bands, but The Allmans are the ones that have kept their flavor the longest for me.

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Sometimes You Need A Horn (or Two)

Free digital image from  FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Let’s just jump into this. I recommend you start off by listening to this first song.




I’m not sure if I’ve always loved songs with horns, or even more so, bands that have horns in them.  I didn’t grow up listening to jazz or even classical, so they were not necessarily part of my musical upbringing.  I can’t think of one record in my dad’s extensive collection that is jazz or classical. Well, that’s not true.  There’s the Willie Nelson jazz album, Stardust, that he tried to get me to listen to when I was younger.  I never did.  Willie was all good and fine, but the first few seconds of whatever starts that album off wasn’t for me at the time.


I can’t remember when it really hit me that songs with horns were just, just…so much more than a song without. Several of the 50s bands that I grew up listening to had saxophonist on the songs.  The guy from “Yakety Yak” really stands out in my mind. King Curtis is his name.  He played on that song as well as on a Buddy Holly song, “Reminiscing”. I guess, thinking about it, probably either Earth, Wind & Fire or KC & the Sunshine Band were probably my first real introduction to several horns in a band.  


I’ve heard all my life “Disco sucks!”, but you know what? When it’s a full-on band like those two then no it didn’t.  It rocked as hard as whatever rock ‘n roll songs were playing at the same time.

Earth, Wind  & Fire – “September”
KC & the Sunshine Band – “Boogie Shoes”

So, yeah. Those songs, those take me back to my young days.  When I’d ask my dad if we could pause a song on the radio so that it would start back up when we got back in the car from McDonald’s.

Paul McCartney always had some great horns in his music with Wings. A lot of people put down that music. A LOT OF PEOPLE. But I have to say it was such a huge part of my childhood that to me it’s just gold.

Paul, of course, had some good input in The Beatles. This is one of my favorite tracks of theirs. 

As I moved into my teens I discovered Madness.  I could easily write a whole entry about them.  They were such a great addition to my expanding musical palate.  I got the cassette of One Step Beyond and played it so much.  Then I got a double sided cassette of that with Absolutely on the back.  Whoa! I mean seriously. I could put so many songs of theirs on here, but I’ll stick with one obvious and one of my all time favorites.

Because I could literally go on and on and on I’m just going to list some of my favorite songs with horns in them.  I’m a little embarrassed by how 80s Adam Ant’s video is, but well, it was the 80s and he was one of the people making actually entertaining videos.  I was introduced to Benny Goodman through the Chips Ahoy commercial and then again in the movie, “Swing Kids”.   I heard Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” on Tom & Jerry when I was a kid.  Then I heard it again through Joe Jackson’s fantastic album Jumpin Jive. More late 80s, early 90s Fishbone and Cake came along and kept the horns going. Just recently through my Madness Pandora station I was introduced to this amazing Australian band, The Cat Empire.  Wow.  Amazing.

Benny Goodman Orchestra – “Sing, Sing, Sing”
The Cat Empire “Hello” & “Chariot”

So, below are some of the bands/artists that really hit home with their use of horns.  Most of course are not being played on the radio except for during the Retro hour, or on a station that plays jazz, real jazz.   I don’t think anyone plays Neil’s This Note’s For You album. This was his first release for Reprise after being on Geffen for most of the 80s.  His time with them ended with the company suing him for not being “Neil Young enough”. As if you can fit Neil into a box and expect him to stay there.  Sheesh.

I would find YouTube clip for them, but there’s only so much time that I’m going to spend on this.  I hope you go find some though.

Louis Armstrong
Dizzy Gillespie
Miles Davis

The English Beat – “Tears of a Clown”
Haircut 100 – “Fantastic Day”
Neil Young & the Blue Notes

Elvis Costello on Spike (he used the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for some tracks) “Miss MacBeth” & “Chewing Gum”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy “Go Daddy-O!”
Brian Setzer Orchestra “Jump, Jive & Wail”


I’ll leave off with Van Morrison and a song off of His Street Choir