II. In Praise Of Country & Western Music

1. Country music is better when played by the English because they think the harpsichord can and should be used as a country and western instrument.

2. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are the two best country and western bands that ever were. I know I would rather listen to them play country than anyone else (including The Byrds or The Flying Burrito Brothers).

3. Beatles For Sale might be the best country and western record ever made. And I know that lovers of country music would be plain old annoyed by this comment. But how do you top "I'm A Loser," "Baby's In Black," "I'll Follow The Sun," "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party," "Honey Don't," and "Everybody's Tryin' To Be My Baby"? You can't. And this from an ignorant rock and roll kid from New York, so what do I know? I know what I like and I like Beatles For Sale.

4. "New Faces" by The Rolling Stones (Voodoo Lounge) is a country and western heartache song, but in the hands of these masters, it's much more. It's psychedelic country music. Dig that, cowboy.

5. Most of the time, Mick Jagger knows how to do it. When he insists on those lifeless, melody-less stomp rockers that have no chorus or point, he wears thin, but otherwise, he very well might be the overall Man when it all comes down to it. The vocals on "Street Fighting Man," "Gimmie Shelter" and "She's A Rainbow" are proof positive of his greatness and consummate rockingness. I can't think of anyone I'd rather hear sing country. (Blasphemy, I know. But there's no hayseed in Mick Jagger. Just seed.)

6. Moving down the river some, Bono and more so Elvis Costello further prove this point. Certainly King Of America proves that country and western music is the other cornerstone of rock and roll music in its purest form, the primary stone being rhythm and blues. That’s why The Rolling Stones define the form and U2's Rattle And Hum is actually a great record. The Brits get it right because they treat it with both reverence and irreverence, and that’s what country and western music, and for that matter, rock and roll should always be treated with. Reverence and irreverence.

So thank God. Give me Bono wailing on his harmonica like a pretentious fool on the end of "Desire" over almost anything country. That gets me. Give me "Dead Flowers" and "You Got The Silver," "The Big Light" and "Brilliant Mistake," "Desire" and "Angel Of Harlem," and of course "I’m A Loser" and "I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party." And I’m not knocking The Byrds at all. I think they’re great, and the reason they went on to make great country and western music is that they treated The Beatles with the same reverence/irreverence I’m talking about. In praise of country and western music as heard through the beautiful prism of the English countryside and Liverpool steel. Beatles and Stones forever.

Nov. '02

He thought he was the King of America but it was just the boulevard of broken dreams.