Friday, March 27, 2009

Inaugural Music Post

I'm on a Friday Creature hiatus again, due to a lack of photos. To make up for my dereliction, though, I'm going to attempt a long-overdue music post. My inaugural effort features the song that I'm likely to name, more often than not, if you were to ask me what's the best song ever. First off, here's the song, "All American Alien Boy," so you can listen while you read along.


It was 1976 and Ian Hunter had recently become a British tax exile in upstate New York and was all about immersing himself in everything that was cool about America: the vocabulary of this country, the things that informed our music, and what fed us as artists and workers and poets and people -- all the things he had long loved from afar in England, while consuming so much music that was inspired by what the Brits were hearing coming out of places like St. Louis, New Orleans and New York. And meanwhile, way over in western New York, I was a sullen young teenage doofus, mining my brother's record collection for stuff that made me feel cool. I was familiar with Hunter's work with Mott the Hoople (more on that in a later post) and David Bowie, but All American Alien Boy was a surprising departure from his previous glam-rock extravaganzas, as its songs featured a host of very funky and jazzy American musical influences.

The album, which took its name from the song, is uneven at times, but it features some of Hunter's best work, from the delicately sweet "Irene Wilde" and finger-wagging "Letter to Britannia from the Union Jack," to the wide open "Rape" and "You Nearly Did Me In" (featuring the guys from Queen), the lilting "Apathy" and thoughtful "God Take 1."

But "All American Alien Boy" was what really grabbed me. It was a moment in time that Hunter captured and recorded beautifully, with the help of some truly remarkable talent, in what I think was his first outing in a while without Mick Ronson. The song prominently features the incredible work of David Sanborn on sax, Jaco Pastorius on bass, and Aynsley Dunbar on drums. It runs over itself at times in a very exciting, swirling buildup to a cacophony of appreciation for all things Yankee. It is exhilaration, energy, celebration and euphoria all wrapped up into a blast of a song written and performed by a guy who is as much a fan of music as he is a talented musician. It was quite the thrill ride for that dorky little girl -- and even now, it can send chills down my spine.

If you're lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, you can still catch Ian Hunter up on the stage -- usually in or around the great cities that lie on either side of the Pond. Here he is a few years ago, chatting it up with Craig Ferguson:

9 comments:

Keera said...

Well, now I know why I hear of touch of British accent in "Cleveland Rocks". I haven't heard "All American Alien Boy" before - a nice new acquaintance.

alice said...

I hope you've got some nice speakers -- just playing the track through my laptop speakers, I noticed that I lost the majority of the very cool bass riffs Jaco Pastorius was laying down.

Keera said...

I listened again through some different speakers, but there is so much happening that the bass was hard to pick out, including being doubled by the piano. The song is delightfully rich, that's for sure!

alice said...

Fletch, you may be in luck! I'm just using a wordpress plugin called wpaudioplayer -- but the developers have come out with a standalone version, so you might be able to plug and play...

A Free Man said...

Well done, Alice! I've been waiting for your music posts and it was well worth the wait. I've never known much about Hunter , but this post inspires me to learn a lot more.

A Free Man said...

By the way, I'm in the teaching lab at the University so am stuck using IE on a PC and you're site is a bit wonky on this machine. Looks like an issue regarding the width of your central panel relative to the sidebars. Just thought I'd give you a heads up.

alice said...

Thanks, FM -- for the kind words and the tip about the site template. A couple of people have mentioned it, but I haven't done anything about it yet -- primarily because of a lack of time, but also because I really hate IE. However, I just set up a 3-column template for another site recently and I really liked the way it performed, so when I have a chance, I think I'll just put that up here...

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