by Sean Maloney
I have no idea what Nashville was actually like in the '70s, but I'm going to guess it was a lot like today, only with fewer mustaches and fewer people trying to sell artisan, hand-crafted douche-canoes or whatever it is the kids are into lately. And I guess Nashville in the '70s probably didn't have a lot of bloggers, all the DJs were on the radio rather than on their iPads, and they didn't have their own soap opera. (Unless you count Hee Haw, but that's a can of worms I'm not willing to open.)
I suppose that Nashville was still a strictly country town at this point, or at least strictly country in a way visible to most outsiders, and even with the benefit of hindsight it's hard to suss out a rock scene in '70s Nashville — from what I can tell it was bedroom weirdos, studio weirdos, out-of-town bands and Dobie Gray. But at the same time, this was a point when country and rock were swapping spit pretty much nonstop, the songwriter/studio team/star system was at its pinnacle commercially and critically, and there were a lot of wild people just, y'know, hanging out. I guess, anyway. Like I say, I wasn't here. I wasn't born, either. So yeah. Best Local Rock Songs (of the '70s) Ever.
Dobie Gray, "Drift Away"
This is pretty damn close to my favorite recording by anybody ever, so there's that. I think this may be the ultimate pop song: the sort of song I can listen to anywhere at anytime. Which is good, because it's playing everywhere, all the time. And I'm totally part of the problem. If you've ever closed out the bar while I've been DJing, you've likely heard me spin it. And it's local! Gray was living in a cabin in Hendersonville while recording this at Quad, and he ended up spending the rest of his life here, writing country songs and doing the things that Nashville rockers do.
Area Code 615, "Stone Fox Chase"
This is the ultimate American party record and would likely also be on top of my Best Songs Ever list, regardless of where I lived. It doesn't matter what kind of crowd you've got in front of you — if you play this through a sound system at a proper volume, everybody gets down. There is no fighting it: Rumps shake, arms flail, heads bob. I came to this song through the breakbeat sub-culture, a lot of people know it from the Old Grey Whistle Test, and five bucks says somebody jumps into the comments and says, "Hey, that's my dad!" This record is the reason hi-fi was invented: It perfectly captures the brilliance of expert musicians unwinding on a gnarly groove.
R. Stevie Moore, "I Wish I Could Sing"
And now for something completely different! Moore pioneered the bedroom-pop aesthetic, and his private press release of the self-recorded Phonography LP set the standard for the artfully obscure indie album. In the 30-odd years since, Moore has released hundreds of songs in the form of short-run, handmade albums — many of which have mutated their way onto Bandcamp — and become a staple of the D.I.Y. scene. But yeah, this track is the two-headed freak-spawn of Jeff Lynne and Brian Eno, and you can't really beat it. And his cover band from the '70s was pretty awesome too. Because everybody has to be in a cover band.
Gil Trythall, "Folsom Prison Blues"
Country Moog — it was a thing! For two odd, awesome records at least. Trythall was on Athena Records — home to The Feminine Complex, arguably the best Nashville band of all time — and cut two albums of solo-synth country covers that walk the line between hokey and sublime, while mostly just staying in the "fun zone." I just found out that he authored Principles and Practices of Electronic Music in '73 and put out the proto-analog-bubblebath "Luxicon II/Echospace" in 1980. Also, "Polk Salad Annie".
Bob Seger, "Seen a Lot of Floors"
Yeah, yeah, The Seeg is from Detroit — but this is from his long-lost Nashville album, the first with the Silver Bullet Band and the last record before he became BOB SEGER, which is pretty fucking local if you ask me. If I'm not mistaken, there are still copies of the record in a lot dollar bins around town — again, pretty fucking local. Bob would head to Muscle Shoals for the next record, "Katmandu"-ing his way to platinum sales, which, hey, ya gotta do what you gotta do. Also, the odds of this album being reissued before Bob kicks the bucket are slim, so scoop that shit up.
Michael Nesmith, "Rio"
Bob Seger took the "Out of Towner Who Made a Record Here" slot, but this video is too fucking priceless to not post, so long as I have this excuse to post it.
Keith Caradine, "I'm Easy"
I mean, c'mon. You think I was gonna talk about' 70s Nashville and not mention this? Christ, that clip is like 308 on Xanax or Avery Barkley without the cloud of douche over his head.