Monday, September 28, 2009

Bands Paying Homage: The Gaslight Anthem to The Clash

I am inspired when I hear a song or watch an interview in which an artist pays homage to bands and songwriters that have influenced their life and career. It is a reminder that, no matter what success and fame comes a band’s way, they are still able to hear a favorite old song and be humbled by the power that song first had over them.

How many of us recall introduction to a sound that rocked our world unlike anything we had ever heard before? For me, it was Led Zeppelin, and I was 14 years old. For many of my peers at the time, that sound was Nirvana. It’s heartening to know that even Jimmy Page and Kurt Cobain experienced the same rush of falling in love with music. Page was inspired at an early age by the blues music of the American South, and Cobain famously made lists of the music that inspired him, ranging from The Stooges to Leadbelly. Although as individuals we are emotionally affected by different sounds and genres, the power of that emotion is a common ground that connects us; we are all fans.

One of the least veiled tributes is the song “I’da Called You Woody, Joe” by the Gaslight Anthem. It is a punk song that, surprisingly, tugs the heartstrings because it is such a sincere tribute Joe Strummer of the Clash. It also describes a feeling I personally recall so vividly – the complete and utter awe of hearing something profound for the first time. This is Brian Fallon singing about the Clash's influence on his virgin ears:

And then I heard it like a shot through my skull to my brain,
I felt my fingertips tingle, and it started to rain,
When the walls of my bedroom were tremblin' around me,
This ramshackle voice over attack of a bluesbeat,
Tellin' me, he's only looking for fun.
And this was the sound, of the very last gang in town.

As heard by my wild young heart,
Like directions on a cold, dark night,
Sayin', "Let it out, let it out, let it out, you're doing all right."
And I heard it in his chain gang soul.
It wasn't just the same sad song.
Sayin', "Let it out, let it out, let it out, you're doing all right."

Fallon goes on to sing about the comfort the songs bring him as a constant in life through good times and bad. You wouldn’t typically associate the Clash with “comfort” and that’s what’s cool - one man’s chaos can be another man’s comfort! That is what makes the listener experience so personal; songs evoke different feelings in all of us, and that is the reason fans forge deep connections with songwriters. In naming the song “I’da Called You Woody, Joe,” I believe Fallon is expressing the kinship he felt with Joe Strummer, even if he had never met him. If he had met Joe, he would refer to him as a friend would - by his nickname, “Woody.”

Below is the music video for “I’da Called You Woody, Joe,” where you can hear the song in its entirety. I will explore the topic of “Bands Paying Homage” on future posts. There are several examples of songs that reveal band fandom, so feel free to comment or email me your favorites!


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