Classic music for many people is often the songs that made up the soundtrack to childhood. These might be tracks our parents forced us to listen to in the car, or songs Grandma played while baking some fresh chocolate pie. Inadvertently, the music can fade into the background, sometimes to be rediscovered later, but sometimes only to be lost in the quiet recesses of our minds. Occasionally, I take it upon myself to drudge the nostalgia back up, and shove it straight down the throat of everyone I can with a wide spoon. This is definitely one of those times. So, dear reader, without further ado, get ready and open that mouth and those ears as much as you can… I promise you will thank me later.
The first classic I truly believe deserves to be made new again is an album I have never completely put away since I came into possession of it, Johnny Rivers’ Golden Hits. I’m not sure how it came to be that I owned such a prize. Maybe my parents’ divorce? Maybe someone forgot it, and they are on the other side of the universe weeping. No matter how I acquired it I am blessed, though, and every chance I get I break out the beautiful voice of Johnny. Now I’m not going to pretend to be a super fan. I can’t vouch for this gentleman’s entire career, but if it’s anything like Johnny Rivers’ Golden Hits maybe I could fall in love.
The album is composed of 11 songs beginning with “Memphis” which is just straight up unbelievable. My feet tap instantly every time. I start hard-core grooving to those old-time beats, and heaven help me if I’m in a car ’cause I’m sure I’d be headed straight for Memphis myself. Rivers crooning out of my speakers for his long-lost Marie makes me think of how we take our loved ones for granted nowadays. It’s almost unimaginable to think of a time when you could not just text or video chat a loved one in the a blink of an eye. Why then does the ease of access seem to make it even easier to put it off ’til later. A cold hard drive will never replace the warmth of human touch, don’t rely on technology, and don’t take your loved ones for granted all taught by Johnny Rivers himself by then end of track one.
By the time “Mabellene” comes on I’m straight up bouncing around. Unfortunately, for some reason this leads to cleaning the house as per usual. I’m not sure why listening to Johnny Rivers makes me want to clean. Maybe it’s just because “Mabellene” is an energetic fun filled playhouse of a song, or maybe when Chuck Berry wrote it in the 50’s he was in league with the government to create secret subliminal messaging in song lyrics to keep the women sedated? Is “Secret Agent Man” on side B, really trying to tell us something? Nevertheless, nothing makes these hard wood floors shine like a Swiffer with the pressure of hips that are swaying to the possibility of Mabellene not being true.
The third song, “Midnight Special“, is phenomenal, but I can’t really say a lot about it because honestly, my mind wanders immediately upon hearing the first few notes. Suddenly, I’m driving in the Twilight Zone with Dan Aykroyd riding shotgun, and I’m yelling at Jon Lithgow not to get into that ambulance because there really WAS something on the wing of the plane!
I come back around to the present as “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” begins with its hippy dippy intro. This song stops my cleaning process, and throws me into fits of confusion. This is probably the one song on the album I could do without. I mean really dude, are you really gonna use that thinly veiled loss of virginity metaphor, and then a few verses later start griping because the girls got married? Make up your mind fella.
“John Lee Hooker” comes on, and breaks my derailed train of thought instantaneously pulling me back into Golden Hits goodness. “Seventh Son” takes over, and just like always my mind conjures an image of a magical Fonzie-like creature. One day I simply MUST meet this magical “Seventh Son”.
“Secret Agent Man” begins side B with a fury. This song takes me back to childhood more than any of the others I think. I’m not sure what age I was when I finally discovered he was saying “Secret Agent Man” and not “Secret Asian Man”. I mean, I guess I thought Johnny was just really fond of 007 and Bruce Lee or something and couldn’t decide. This song made sooo much more sense after I discovered the truth, but I do still kinda see Asian men with a little more wit and mystery than others even to this day.
“Muddy Waters” comes on next, and brings me right back to present day where my broom simultaneously becomes my dance partner and my guitar. At this point I think maybe I should just give up on this cleaning thing. “Mountain of Love” begins to pour outta the radio as I finish up. I’m sure we all have a moment in our lives we can relate to this track, and if you’re like me you try to get all that hurt outta your heart through your mouth by singing at the top of your lungs. The second to last song is a cover mashup between “La Bamba” and “Twist and Shout”, and Rivers does a magnificent job performing and marrying this pair in harmony.
The final hit in this golden array is “It Wouldn’t Happen With Me“. Johnny spends his final album moments assuring us that he’s not like those other guys. He tells us about all the other traveling men, and how he’s gonna be there for us to hug and squeeze. Johnny sings of his loyalty with that not so subtle little hint of jealousy that all the girls just swoon for, and I, like the rest, just can’t wait to go back for more.
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