Friday, November 21, 2008

A One-Hit Wonder Twofer!

The best song ever from a Dutch quartet about a California road trip, “Sausalito Summernight” on Diesel's "Watts In A Tank" LP reached #25 on the US charts in 1981. Almost unclassifiable, this song was wrongfully pegged as “New Wave” (wasn’t everything?) by the rock critic elite of the time. Lead vocalist/guitarist Rob Vunderink’s (I can hear the laughter from here, Phil/ Dave!) guitar solos echo early Mark Knoffler and the drums and bass pound away in perfect unison for the full 5:08. I know what you’re thinking. “A great rock song from the Dutch? No waaayyyyy, maaan. Not possible!”

But it’s true, I tells ya!

It’s the lyrics, I believe, that make the song truly unique. For a Dutch band they sure have the whole California road trip thing down pat.

To wit:

“We left for Frisco in your Rambler
The radiator running dry
I've never been much of a gambler
and had a preference to fly

You said "forget about the airline,
let's take the car and save the fare."
We blew a gasket on the Grapevine
and eighty dollars on repairs”

Anyone who’s ever traveled the Grapevine above Los Angeles will be able to sympathize with “blowing a gasket” on that infamous pass. I’ve traversed it many times, once in a U-Haul trailer, and I can tell you I worried about that very thing as I sputtered to the top going 15 miles an hour! It goes on:

“Hot summer night in Sausalito
Can't stand the heat another mile
Let's drop a quarter in the meter
and hit the sidewalk for a while

I'll have a burger and a root beer
You feed the heap some of the grape
A shot of premium to boot, dear
We'll get across the Golden Gate

Another mile or two to the frisco
200 gallons from LA
the engine stompin' like a disco
we ought to dump her in the bay”

And the following is extremely appropriate given today’s California gas prices:

“Cashing all my checks
Sweeping out my bank
Spend it on a Rambler
With a whirlpool in the tank
Look out over here
Watch out over there
Can't afford a blowout
'Cause we haven't got a spare…”

I don’t know, maybe it’s the ‘been there, done that’ connection, but I truly think this is one of the lost great songs of the last three decades, right up there with “I Got You” by Split Enz, “Drivers Seat” by Sniff ‘n’ The Tears and “This Beat Goes On/ Switchin’ To Glide” by The Kings. Instantly memorable, both lyrically and musically, without an ounce of pretension. It's just plain FUN. Guilty pleasure? Maybe. It never won any awards, but that's never how I've measured musical talent. As a matter of fact I usually watch the Grammy's to see who to avoid.

There’s a great line from one of the Austin Powers movies where Austin’s father says, “There are two things I hate in this world: people who are intolerant of other people’s cultures….AND THE DUTCH!”

He obviously hasn’t heard this song.

Sniff 'N' The Tears: Drivers Seat

Fellow blogger and newspaper colleague Thom G over at Surface Tension (link on the right rail) once posted a video of The Kings new wave Canadian classic “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide”, and it got me thinking of British band Sniff 'N' The Tears and their song Drivers Seat, simply the best "one hit wonder" song of the 1970's. I personally think that this is one of the best songs of any decade, and it's a damn pity the album it came from is long out of print.

It was used to great effect in the film Boogie Nights (that P.T. Anderson knows how to pick the songs for his movies, doesn't he?), but the song and band are largely and unforgivably wasting away in the overflowing "where are they now" files.

The drummer is a metronomic maniac and the guitar never lets up it's mannered ferocity throughout the entire song. Steady bass playing and terrific keyboard/ synthesiser riffs by Alan Fealdman round out the sound.

The full album, with an unfortunately abbreviated version of Driver's Seat is now available on Amazon, iTunes, etc.

1 comment:

Fusion 45 said...

I laugh: "The best song ever from a Dutch quartet about a California road trip."

Sniff and The Tears = my first radio gig, dating the night-time jockette, full of possibilities (and hormones).

Diesel = my first college radio gig, trying to date ALL the little jockettes.

Rockpile = that same first year of college, introduced to Rockpile by a girl from Boston who was way cooler than I was.

"Now And Always" is an all-time favorite (now and always).

Nice post.

Music Junkie @ Fusion 45