Behind The Blue Rockies

The teenagers who screamed at a young Frank Sinatra were appalled when their own children went berserk over the Beatles. How can they listen to that?

Stopped at a traffic light yesterday, I was next to one of those compact thumpa thumpa thumpa Subwoofers on wheels, its windows down and all twenty speakers thumpa thumpa thumpa spewing…what? A two-year-old beating on a pot? How can they listen to that?

I won’t say the music I grew up with is better-than-yours, though; most of it plays on Easy Listening channels, having eroded into soft rock. The acoustic gems of the 60s and 70s appear as quaint as glass plates once did to film photographers. Like that riverboat, the Big Wheel Keeps On Turning, though sometimes it’s necessary to step off the boat for a while, let the crowd surge on ahead with the cultural currents, and immerse oneself in the bittersweet memories of youth.

When I arrived home after the bruising thumpa encounter I put a Gordon Lightfoot disc into my CD player (see time machine) and queued up The Canadian Railroad Trilogy. Barely two beats later it was 1974 and I was seeing the Rocky Mountains north of the border for the first time. Once you’ve heard this song it is impossible to visit the Rockies in Alberta and British Columbia without humming the tune in your head, verse by lyrical verse, wincing at heavy hammer blows on steel while imagining the powerful chuffing of steam locomotives pulling steep mountain grades.

I heartily recommend the two-disc Gordon Lightfoot: The United Artists Collection as among the best work from that proudly Canadian artist. The compilation includes songs from his first five albums, including Back Here On Earth and The Way I Feel. Enjoy your stopover.

Blogscript: Lightfoot performed at the University of Oregon in the early 70s. I was seated in the front row, left, as he entered through a side door, where I met him with a roll of Tri-X. One frame, then the lights came up and the moment was past.


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