Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ugh! With a gammy leg?

I was on a bus back up to my flat from the railway station earlier, and it was chucking it down in an impressively monsoon-esque manner, and I was looking out of the window while listening to a couple of hoary old 1970s classics on my iPod, and I was filled with a profound sense of, ooh, I dunno, something or other. So much so that I though I'd share them with you - they were, in playing order, Joe Walsh's smoking slide guitar classic Rocky Mountain Way, and Mountain's Nantucket Sleighride. There's always some entertaining trivia attached to songs, and these two are no exception. Try these on for size:

Rocky Mountain Way (a cracking live performance of which from 1972 can be viewed here) features heavy use of a talk box on the solo section in the middle. The Wikipedia article suggests that this device was invented specifically for Walsh, though it was made famous by Peter Frampton on the dreaded Frampton Comes Alive! Walsh later joined the Eagles, and continues to tour with them today - in fact I saw them perform, Rocky Mountain Way and all, almost exactly a year ago at Twickenham.

Nantucket Sleighride must be one of the very few rock songs on the subject of whaling, if you discount the songs of Bob Marley and the Whalers, ho ho. The full title of the sing is Nantucket Sleighride (for Owen Coffin) and this bears some explanation. A "Nantucket sleigh ride" describes how the flimsy whaling boats were dragged along behind the whale after the first harpoon was dispatched, the name being a nod to the island of Nantucket, once the world's largest whaling port. And Owen Coffin was a 17-year-old crew member on the ill-fated whaler Essex which was sunk by an an enraged whale off the coast of South America in 1820. The story of the subsequent driftings around the open ocean and the dreadful choices the survivors were faced with inspired (legend has it) Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick. Finally - I only knew in advance what a Nantucket sleighride was because I've read Whale Adventure, one of the ludicrous yet highly entertaining and educational series of children's books by Willard Price. You don't get keel-hauling and getting eaten by mako sharks in Harry Potter, I can tell you.

Actually, there's more. Mountain's bassist Felix Pappalardi was shot dead by his wife in 1983. And Nantucket Sleighride was used as the theme for the ITV political programme Weekend World in the 1970s.

A gritty and unflinching dramatisation of what being cast adrift must have been like can be found here.


The Black Rabbit said...

Christ. We were addicted to those Willard Price books at middle school.
We waited and waited for the next "Puffin delivery" to arrive at school, for Hal and Roger's next exciting adventure.
Fookin' great days...

Actually. Thinking about it. A Willard Price book was probably the last book I got out of a library. About 25-30 years ago.

Dripping with literary culture, me. Uh huh.

electrichalibut said...

They were great. They had actual deaths in and everything. Not just some bloke being chomped by a piggin' great shark in Whale Adventure, but a bloke being clamped by a giant clam in Underwater Adventure, trying to saw his own foot off with a penknife, failing and drowning/bleeding to death. Great stuff!