Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ode to Tony Joe


Nothing to do with beds, this post picks up on a comment by ToffeeBoy about my travelling playlist. TB picked out Tony Joe White's Aspen Colorado for special mention and it reminded me that, where Tony Joe White is concerned, that reaction was by no means a first.

I've got to thank, for my Tony Joe devotion, the screenwriter Neville Smith, who wrote the Albert Finney film, Gumshoe, (and who is incidentally another ToffeeBoy - he and Ken Loach made the film The Golden Vision in the '60s, about Everton fans). Neville's twin son and daughter were my best friends when I was at University in Liverpool, and into our music-obsessed group of friends, they introduced some of the sounds with which their dad had raised them. These included musicians I continue to love - Arthur Alexander, Nick Drake, Jim Croce - and there was also one song that, once heard, became something more than a favourite song. It was an intimate, a confidant, one of the gang. The song was Polk Salad Annie. We knew every word, each jag and twinge of the guitar, each vocal grunt like Barry White gone country. We knew the spoken intro the same way me and my brother knew every inflection of Pete Wylie's spoken outro to Story of the Blues years earlier. We'd recognise the song just from the "Four" counting it in right at the beginning. We called the song "Four" as a term of affection. For ages, it was just the one song, though there was a promise of a Best Of LP in Neville's collection that would be purloined on a visit home one time. When that arrived, Tony Joe White became something like a Talmudic text.

And the thing was, it was everyone. Someone might have popped round; if Tony Joe White happened to be playing while they were there, the response would always be, "Who is this?". These were the days of mix-tapes designed to curry favour with pot dealers, impress the pants off an object of affection or save having to spend dole money on a birthday present and, invariably, a Tony Joe White track would be seized upon by the recipient and there'd be a follow-up request for a TJW sampler. So this sampler is constructed in loving memory of temps perdue but also in the confidence that Tony Joe White's music can still win converts.

What we have here are eight TJW numbers, kicking off with Polk Salad Annie, which is well-known thanks to the cover version by Elvis, and rounded up with Rainy Night In Georgia, another TJW composition (he also wrote Steamy Windows for Tina Turner) that provided others with hits. Elsewhere, we have country rhinestone, soul fried chicken and bluesy bourbon in such a distinctly American concoction that it should come as no surprise that TJW has lived for many years among the people who most fervently embraced his music, the French.


Polk Salad Annie
Soul Francisco
Willie and Laura Mae Jones
High Sheriff of Calhoun Parish
Groupy Girl
I've Got A Thing About You Baby
Look Of Love
Rainy Night In Georgia

3 comments:

DarceysDad said...

Boxstr's on a work-to-rule again! The first song it'll play for me is I've Got A Thing...

Don't know TJW at all, so thanks for this, May.

May1366 said...

Cheers DsD - yes, it's struggling to get through each of them, lot of stopping and starting, but seems to be playing all the tracks for me

ToffeeBoy said...

Coming through loud and clear for me. Didn't really enjoy the more country-tinged songs too much but absolutely loved Rainy Night In Georgia.