Battle of the Bands: Sweet Home Alabama vs. Southern Man

battle-of-the-bands-botb-top-photo

SWEET HOME ALABAMA VS. SOUTHERN MAN

This battle features Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama against Neil Young’s Southern Man.

If my hunch is right, this battle will probably be a blowout, but maybe not. I’m interested to see how it plays out. Regardless of how it ends, this battle was really fun to put together, pitting two iconic songs that both stand the test of time against each other.

Enjoy! And thanks Stephen McCarthy for this fabulous idea and especially for thinking of me when you thought of it. I’m really excited to present it.

There has long been controversy about whether Neil Young and Lynryd Skynyrd’s front man Ronnie Van Zant were friends or foes. After all, Sweet Home Alabama lyrics famously mention Neil Young:

“I heard old Neil talk about her, I heard old Neal put her down

Well, I hope Neil Young will remember

a southern man don’t need him around anyhow”

On its face, it would appear that Lynryd Skynrd is putting Neil Young down in response to his song Southern Man, an anti-racism song which many think broad-stroke paints all Southerners as racists. At least that’s how most people interpret those lyrics. But in reality, were Neil Young and Ronnie Van Zant actually friends?

This question has been pondered for decades and much has been written about it. The conclusion has been drawn that the two actually liked and had deep mutual respect for each other. Most notably evidenced by these photos showing Ronnie Van Zant in concert wearing a t-shirt with Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night album cover on it and Neil Young wearing Lynryd Skynrd’s Jack Daniels whiskey t-shirt during performance, an obvious nod to one another.

ronnie-van-zant-wearing-neil-youngs-tonights-the-night-tshirt

neil-young-wearing-lynryd-skynrds-jack-daniels-whiskey-tshirt

But you can come to your own conclusion. Here’s a good article that goes deep on the subject and starts with this:

“Thanks to Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd was inspired to write the song “Sweet Home Alabama”.

Without Young’s songs that were so critical of the South’s segregationist and racist attitudes for inspiration, it is doubtful that the band would have produced a song with such a long lasting duration that continues to sell well 30 years after its release.

But the ultimate irony of “Sweet Home Alabama” is that for so many, the song’s implied put down of Neil Young was NOT meant as criticism but as support of Young’s anti-racism.”

I tend to believe that they genuinely liked each other. What do you think?

I’ve found two superb live performances of both songs that I think you’ll really enjoy. (Note: the Neil Young song video says it’s 19 minutes long but the song is really only 9:44 in length. At that point, oddly the audio cuts out and the video continues taping the performance. I don’t know why the video doesn’t just end when the song ends but whatever). Anyway, both performances are very strong and full of passion. The question is: which one do you like better? Which song do you like better?

LYNYRD SKYNRD – Sweet Home Alabama  (Live at Amsouth Ampitheatre in Tennessee 2003)

 

NEIL YOUNG – Southern Man (FarmAid performance)

 

TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? And when you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

 

 

L is for Lynryd Skynyrd, Looking Glass, Lovin’ Spoonful, Loggins & Messina, Little River Band and Led Zeppelin!

L

DISCLAIMER THAT APPEARS AT THE BEGINNING OF ALL A-Z 2015 PAGES:

Welcome to the A-Z Musical Tour of My Life! I have wanted to put something like this together for a long time now and the A-Z Challenge just seemed like the perfect opportunity. I’ve compiled stories, trivia, research, music videos and live concert footage on all the bands and musical artists who have been important to me over the years, especially during my youthful years in the 60s and 70s. At first glance, the posts may seem long – and some of them are due to the number of videos included – but it’s really laid out in a way that will enable you to scroll through and read, see or hear just what you want and then either move on to the next A-Zer or linger and listen to the great music that you’ll find here. By all means, bookmark my blog so you can come back! In addition to individual songs, there are some full albums here for those who may want to enjoy some music while they’re surfing or working. I hope you find that the stories are entertaining, the information educational and the trivia interesting. It would be a tremendous honor if you would bookmark the A-Z Musical Tour of My Life as a resource for great music and music information! Now, let’s get started with…

L is for Lynryd Skynrd – Three teenage boys, Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins got together in 1966 and started jamming as a garage band. In 1989 they sought a new name and settled on Leonard Skinnerd, mocking their high school gym teacher, Leonard Skinner, because he was apparently a hardass about enforcing the “no long hair” rule at school. (Later in 1970, the spelling changed to the distinctive Lynryd Skynyrd).

Best known for popularizing the southern rock genre, Lynryd Skynryd is one of my very favorite bands. I can put on their Gold and Platinum Collection and play it over and over and never get sick of it. I almost got to see Lynryd Skynrd but shortly thereafter, at the peak of their success, a terrible plane crash took the lives of three band members in 1977, including the heart and soul of the band, Ronnie Van Zant.

Although I didn’t get to see Lynryrd Skynryd, I did see the Rossington Collins band, which was the band formed by Allen Collins and Gary Rossington and two other remaining members of Lynryrd Skynryd. They didn’t want to come out as Lynryrd Skynryd because they didn’t want to taint the memory of Ronnie and the others who had put their life into the band, they wanted to honor their legacy so instead of coming out as Lynryd Skynryd they came out as Rossington Collins. It was when Rossington Collins first started touring that I saw them. It was incredibly emotional because the loss was still fairly recent and when they performed Free Bird, the spotlight shined on the spot of an empty microphone where Ronnie Van Zant would’ve stood. There were a lot of tears in the Niagara Falls Convention Center that night.

The surviving band members reformed in 1988 for a reunion tour with Johnny Van Zant as lead vocalist, the little brother to singer and founder Ronnie Van Zant. They continued to tour but suffered several more losses in 2004 and 2009. The story of the band is both a fairy tale dream-come-true and a tragedy. At the end of this segment I’ve posted the VH1 special Behind the Music – the story behind the music of Lynryrd Skynryd. You’ll see what I mean when you watch it. Very sad indeed.

It’s hard for me to choose a favorite Skynryd song because I love so many of them but probably the first one that comes to mind is Gimme Back My Bullets. When I was leaving WCXR in DC to move to Austin where I had accepted a sales job at a Contemporary Hits radio station, my buddy who was the midday disc jockey at the station did an on-air dedication and farewell to me and then played Gimme Back My Bullets. I was in the station and heard it and went running into the control room and we cranked the music so loud the walls were shaking! So Mike Kelley, this one’s for you!

Gimme Back My Bullets, studio version:

You Got That Right – this video shows the album cover. You’ll notice the flames on the cover. I had that album – I won it in a contest in high school – but I turned around and sold it. And then after the plane crash, they discontinued the cover with the flames and all subsequent productions of the album cover were without the flames. So of course the album cover with the flames because a collector’s item. My friend Audrey refused to sell it back to me. Ha!

That Smell – performance prior to the release of the album with that song: the song was introduced by Ronnie Van Zant as “this is a BRAND NEW NUMBER THAT’S GOING TO BE OUT ON OUR NEW ALBUM”

On the Hunt – from performance at Winterland in San Francisco, 1975

Whiskey Rock-a-Roller

Ballad of Curtis Lowe – a photo montage video:

Tuesday’s Gone – from their Vicious Cycle tour in 2003:

Travelin Man – 1976 performance:

Simple Man

Gimme Three Steps – 1976 performance:

And finally, their first two hits: Sweet Home Alabama and Free Bird.

Sweet Home Alabama– studio version:

Free Bird – from 1975 on The Old Grey Whistle Test, a British television music show that aired on BBC2 from 1971-1988.

If this hasn’t been enough Skynryd for you, here’s the VH1 Classics documentary special on Lynryd Skynryd – the story Behind the Music:

 

Onto the next L band:

Looking Glass – This early 70s American pop music group can be classified as one of those “one-hit wonders”: It’s song Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) climbed to #1 in August 1972 and stayed on the charts for 16 weeks. And that’s about all that band ever really did. But boy, was that song ever fabulous. One of my absolute favorites and of course, made it onto the jukebox in my bar!

 

L is for the Lovin’ Spoonful – The Lovin’ Spoonful is an American rock band that “had its roots in the folk music scene based in the Greenwich Village section of lower Manhattan during the early 1960s. John Sebastian, who grew up in contact with music and musicians, was the son of a much-recorded and highly technically accomplished classical harmonica player (also named John Sebastian). He had reached maturity toward the end of the American folk music revival that spanned from the 1950s to the early 1960s. Sebastian was joined in the Spoonful by guitarist Zal Yanovsky from a bohemian folk group called The Mugwumps (two other members, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty, would later form half of the Mamas & the Papas), playing local coffee houses and small clubs. Drummer Jan Carl and bassist Steve Boone rounded out the group but Carl was replaced by drummer-vocalist Joe Butler after the group’s first gig at The Night Owl in Greenwich Village.” (Source: Wikipedia)

A little bit of trivia on the Lovin’ Spoonful: “the band’s members termed their approach “good-time music”. In the liner notes of “Do You Believe in Magic”, Zal Yanovsky said he “became a convert to Reddy Kilowatt [the use of electricity in music] because it’s loud, and people dance to it, and it’s loud.” Soon-to-be members of the psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead were part of the West Coast acoustic folk music scene when The Lovin’ Spoonful came to town while on tour. They credited The Lovin’ Spoonful concert as a fateful experience, after which they decided to leave the folk scene and “go electric.” (Source: the Lovin’ Spoonful Wikipedia page)

And another tidbit that’s interesting: At the peak of its success the band was originally selected to perform on the television show that became The MonkeesHmm, I wonder what that show would’ve been like had they assumed the role??

My favorite Lovin’ Spoonful songs:

Summer in the City

Do You Believe in Magic? – 1965 performance:

Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind – this song went to #2 in 1966:

Daydream

 

 

L is for Loggins and MessinaAmerican rock-pop duo Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina, these singer-songwriters found their success in the early to mid ‘70s. They broke up in 1976; Jim Messina found only limited success afterward but Kenny Loggins went on to have many hits in the ‘80s. They did reunite for a few reunion tours, in 2005 and 2009. Their 1972 song Angry Eyes is my favorite Loggins and Messina song.

Angry Eyes:  

Your Mama Don’t Dance – Loggins and Messina performing on the Midnight Special:

Danny’s Song – “Danny’s Song” written by Kenny Loggins, first appeared on “Sittin’ In”, the debut album by Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina, released in 1971 on the Columbia Records. It was later released on CD on the Sony label. The song was a big hit for Anne Murray in 1972.

 

L is for Little River Band – Formed in Australia in 1975, the band chose its name on the way to a performance as it passed a road sign for a little Victorian township called Little River! I guess they had to come up with a name for themselves and waited until the last minute! Good story. I love finding out how bands came up with their names.

During its career the band sold over 25 million records and had 13 U.S. Top 40 hits. I saw these Aussies about ten or so years ago here in Austin. They performed at a great outdoor venue called The Backyard and it was a fabulous show. They played all their hits and engaged so nicely with the audience, I really liked them. Here are my favorites by the Little River Band; there are quite a few:

Lonesome Loser:

The Night Owls – 1981 performance:

Cool Change – The video has nothing to do with the band but it is a riveting dolphin video by “Earthstudy” on YouTube. Enjoy:

Help Is On Its Way – 1977 performance:

Reminiscing – from 1978

Take It Easy On Me:

Man on Your Mind:

The Other Guy – Little River Band performing on Australia’s the Don Lane Show, 1983:

Happy Anniversary – performing in Germany, 1981:

Aren’t they great? Little River Band has such a good sound!

Now here’s a totally different sound.

L is for Led ZeppelinFormed in England in 1968, the band consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham. Originally called “the New Yardbirds,” the band set out to change its name. Accounts of the origin of the name Led Zeppelin differ but most sources report that the name for the band came from snide remarks made by The Who members: According to the rumor, when Jimmy Page was assembling the group, Keith Moon (drummer from The Who) got word of his plans and predicted the group would go down “like a lead balloon” – this is a common English expression. John Entwistle (bassist and keyboardist from The Who) thought it would be “more like a lead zeppelin.” Page like the phrase and they changed “lead” to “led” to avoid mispronunciation. (Other accounts say that it was a newspaper article or review that said the band would “go over like a lead balloon.”)

With their heavy guitar-driven sound, Led Zeppelin is regarded as being progenitors of hard rock and heavy metal. Wildly successful, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995; the museum’s biography of the band states that they were “as influential in that decade [the 1970s] as the Beatles were in the prior one.”

The men of Led Zeppelin were honored by President Barack Obama in 2012 at the Kennedy Center Honors. Heart paid tribute to Led Zeppelin by performing their classic Stairway to Heaven and I posted the article and video on my blog because it was absolutely incredible –and I don’t say that lightly. So much so that it brought Robert Plant to tears. If you’d like to read the article, click here. I’m posting Heart’s version here and then I’ll post Led Zeppelin performing it. Heart blew me away doing this rendition and if you haven’t seen it, it is sure to blow you away too. They hired an amazing choir to accompany them and it was brilliant!

Stairway to Heaven – often referred to as one of the greatest rock songs of all time. It was the most requested song on FM radio stations in the United States in the 1970s, despite never having been officially released as a single here.

On the 20th Anniversary of the song’s release, Esquire magazine featured an article on the song’s success and lasting influence. Writer Karen Karbo wrote:

“It’s doubtful that anyone knew it would become the most popular rock song of all time. After all, it’s eight minutes long and was never released as a single. Even [the Beatles] “Hey Jude” was shorter, was a 45, and enjoyed the benefits of comprehensible words and a sing-along chorus. But “Hey Jude” isn’t the most requested song of all time on FM rock stations. Nobody ever had a “Hey Jude” theme prom or played the song at weddings and funerals like “Stairway.” “Stairway” couldn’t succeed today. Back in 1971, FM deejays prided themselves on digging deep into albums to come up with oddball, cultish favorites. With its near-oppressive length, erratic changes, and woo-woo lyrics, the quasi-medieval anthem was a perfect choice. It continues to be a favorite among music listeners who are younger than the song itself, listeners who, in some cases, were no doubt conceived while the tune blasted from car speakers.”

Here is Led Zeppelin performing the iconic anthem. The footage is from the concert film “The Song Remains the Same”. The concert took place in Madison Square Garden, New York City. © Warner Brothers

Other Zeppelin greats include:

The Immigrant Song (with lyrics): Led Zeppelin was known to have very obscure and often cryptic lyrics.

Kashmir:

Whole Lotta Love – 1997 promo video (© 2010 WMG. LedZeppelin.com Official Video Channel):

Over the Hills and Far Away – promo video (© 2010 WMG. Led Zeppelin promo video for “Over the Hills and Far Away”. From the official Led Zeppelin DVD (2003). LedZeppelin.com

Going to California – Live performance

Black Dog – live version of “Black Dog.” The song’s title is a reference to a nameless black labrador retriever that wandered around the Headley Grange studios during recording.

When the Levee Breaks:

Dazed and Confused – 1969 performance:

 

So who are your favorite L bands? Who would you have included here? Who did I forget?