This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Some time ago I did a column on Angels so now it's the loyal opposition's turn.
I believe it was William Booth who asked the rhetorical question, “Why should the devil have all the best tunes?” Old Bill went on to form the Salvation Army and the devil went on to start jazz, blues, rock & roll and all the best music of the last century.
Today it's the devil's music, not Bill's.
The first two selections certainly are the devil's music. Given the title of the column today, the ROLLING STONES had to be present.
Legend has it that they were playing this song at the infamous Altamont concert when a Hell's Angel murdered a member of the crowd. I'm sorry to bring reality into this but it is not the song they were performing. It's just that it makes for a better story.
Here is Sympathy for the Devil.
Early in his life and career, STEVE EARLE took Townes Van Zandt as his hero and role model. Uh oh, I'm surprised Steve's still alive.
Besides being a fine songwriter and good singer, Steve is an activist, campaigning against capital punishment (still necessary in some uncivilized countries), landmines and for Vietnam veterans. He regularly performs for free for these causes.
His songs have been recorded by many notable artists but naturally I'm going with the real thing. Here's Steve with The Devil's Right Hand.
CHET BAKER brings us a complete change of pace from the first two songs.
Chet was both a singer and trumpet player of the first rank however, on this one he only sings. Old Devil Moon.
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels had a hit with the song Devil with the Blue Dress. However, they weren't the first to record it. That honor goes to SHORTY LONG, who wrote the song with Mickey Stevenson.
Shorty was the first artist on Motown's Soul label, a subsidiary established for more blues based artists. He was a multi-instrumentalist playing piano, organ, trumpet, drums and other instruments. Alas, he died at only 29 in a boating accident.
ELVIS is usually on the side of the angels with his song choices, but there was one notable devil song.
I imagine you're way ahead of me. Here is Devil in Disguise.
To no one's surprise, the GRATEFUL DEAD have a song about the devil.
It appears on their finest album, “American Beauty.” The song is Friend of the Devil.
GENE VINCENT was one of the pioneers of both rock & roll and rockabilly.
Race with the Devil was Gene's second record after the success of Be-Bop-a-Lula. However, it really only tickled the bottom rungs of the charts. It doesn't matter, it was still a fine piece of rockabilly music. Good rock & roll too.
The GUN was a rather obscure British power trio around the turn of the sixties into the seventies.
They were influenced by others of the same type like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The influence went in both directions as Jimi quoted their most famous song in his tune Machine Gun.
That song, a minor hit in Britain and Australia, is Race with the Devil, a different song from Gene Vincent's.
DANNY KALB and STEFAN GROSSMAN recorded an interesting album back in 1969 called “Crosscurrents.”
Danny first came to my notice as the lead guitarist for the Blues Project but with the album I mentioned, he and Stefan decided to record it with rock & roll rhythm instruments but they played acoustic guitars.
It sort of worked and there were a couple of fine tracks on it. This is one of them called Devil Round the Moon. Stefan does the singing.
A good way to end this is with the man himself. The devil takes an active part in the next song by CHARLIE DANIELS. At least, that what Charlie says.p>
I imagine you know this one, a great hit for Charlie in the seventies and a real toe-tapper, The Devil Went Down to Georgia.
The devil wrote so many good songs there's going to be another column in two weeks' time.