Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Life in a Semi

Hello, Gentle Readers. It's been so long; I am glad to see you again.

Actually, it seems like a lot longer for me than it may for you, since my last couple of posts have been 'in the can,' as the say, since the end of August. Fashion Week happened between then and now, and that pretty much disrupts everything else. And when I say 'disrupts,' I mean 'completely obliterates.' I have this joke with some of the people I work with that my year only has 48 weeks; the 4 weeks that get lost by doing Fall and Spring Fashion exist outside of the normal flow of time and space, like Festival Days in olden tymes.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with music? Why, nothing, actually, and I ought to stop talking about it now. I bring it up only to ask your forgiveness if this post seems awkward; it's been a while since I had to write anything coherent. So- enough about me darling; what do you think of my dress?

Like everyone else here, I imagine, I like a good playlist. One of the things I do to entertain myself is to take a subject and then build a list around it. I know, hardly a revolutionary concept. But it has exposed me to music and bands I might otherwise never have heard of. Because once you get a really good concept going, who wants to stop at the bounds of music they already have? Not I, certainly. I mean, what fun would that be?

One of my all time favorites is built around the theme of driving a semi. At first gloss, you might think that this would be dreadfully boring. Probably you have all heard some of the classic truck drivin' songs, and you're thinking, 'How much variation can there be?' When I started this particular little quest, the only songs on the list that I had were Six Days On The Road by Lee Conway, Give Me Forty Acres to Turn This Rig Around by The Willis Brothers, and Truck Drivin' Man by Jimmy Martin. All classics, to be sure, but also all cut from similar cloth, style wise. So I was sort of thinking the same thing- how much variation will there really be? I was pleasantly and thoroughly surprised, not only by the variation, but by the endurance of the truck drivin' theme. Take a look at the list- just the titles should give you an idea of how varied a treatment this subject has gotten.

Girl on the Billboard by Del Reeves
Six Days On The Road by Lee Conway
Truck Drivin' Queen by Moore & Napier
Keep On Truckin' by Hot Tuna
Truck Drivin' Man by Jimmy Martin
I Took Three Bennies & My Semi Truck Won't Start by Commander Cody And The Lost Planet Airmen
Mexican Vampire Truck Drivin' Girl by Jasper Stone
Give Me Forty Acres to Turn This Rig Around by The Willis Brothers
Drug Store Truck Driving Man by The Coal Porters
Eighteen Wheels On A Big Rig by Ralph's World
Overloaded Diesel by Jimmy Griggs
White Line Fever by The Flying Burrito Brothers
Big Rig Blues (Long One) by The Cowslingers

The sub-themes (that is, besides truck driving) of those songs encompass, in no particular order, obsession, exhaustion, racism, faithfulness, adultery, humor, irony, the supernatural, incompetence, drug abuse, the capricious nature of machines, loneliness, math and numbers, the chase, the escape, delusion, and endurance. If I could have found video clips for all of them, I would have posted them here, and damn concerns of an obnoxiously long post! But, as it is, I have only a few choice examples for you.

Give Me Forty Acres to Turn This Rig Around :: The Willis Brothers

Forty Acres is, of course, a classic, and deservedly so. I think anyone who has ever tried to drive even a U-Haul can appreciate how hard it must be to handle 53' of tractor and trailer, and the sense of humor in this song makes it deserving of a listen in any case.

Girl on the Billboard :: Del Reeves

Who among us has never obsessed over what is out of their reach? This is another one with humor and, I think, universal appeal.

I Took Three Bennies, and Now My Semi Truck Won't Start :: Bill Kirchen, formerly of Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen

Can you think of anything sadder than being hopped up on speed so that you can drive all night, only to have your truck break down? It is truly Shakespearean in scope. Or something.

18 Wheels on a Big Rig :: Ralph's World

I don't want to spoil this one, so you should just listen to it; but I think it is the best of the bunch, if only by virtue of its sheer cleverness. Oh, and it's a kid's song...


Jez said...

18 Wheels of Love - Drive-By Truckers
Lookin' at the World through a Windshield - Son Volt (it's a cover)

I'm sure James McMurtry has some, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe his are more about just plain travelling down the road.

Anonymous said...

Hey there. I'm a trucker, and I noticed a couple of things about this entry. I don't want to seem like a jerk, but it's always the little things that bug us most, isn't it?

The name of that Moore & Napier song is "Truck Driver's Queen," not "Truck Drivin' Queen." The song is sung from a driver's point of view, about his woman waiting for him at home.

The other little thing is that the modern big rig is longer than 53'. The trailer is 53, but truck + trailer together usually measures somewhere around the 72' mark. And yeah, it can be a bit of a bother to turn one around, sometimes. ;)

Sorry if I seem pedantic here. But you listed some cool old trucker songs too, so thanks for those.