Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The songs that didn't make it...

This one's for all the songs that didn't make it.

You know what I mean. Album cuts, lost singles, sure-fire hits that didn't chart, damn good songs the public missed.

I tend to seek these out, cherish them, blab about them to anyone who will listen. They're usually better than the hits.

I've told you before about John Mathis and "Yellow Roses on her Gown." Won't repeat myself other than to say I have no idea why that song didn't make it.

Elvis had a slew of these kind of tunes. I spent about 5 years trying to track down "I'm Leavin'", a haunting, quite unusual song that EP recorded in 1971. Found it on a vinyl album box set in '95. RCA finally got around to releasing it on CD later that same year.

"Loving Arms" is another lost classic. Elvis recorded this during the nadir of his career (mid-70s), but it's one of his best. Those silly Dixie Chicks brought it back on their debut album, and I must say, did a pretty darn good job.

Briefly, other Elvis notables are "It's Midnight" and "Pieces of My Life." The latter was a hit for Charlie Rich.

B.J. Thomas had one, too. It is called "Most of All" and should have been recorded by Elvis instead of "I Just Can't Help Believin'." Also, if you never heard Thomas' "Rock and Roll Lullaby," run don't walk to iTunes or some such place and download it.

I could give you 100 other examples. But, for the sake of time, I'll share with you the song that prompted this blog.

Found my old 33 1/3 vinyl records while moving to the condo. One sentimental favorite was Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" album. On it is one of these lost classics, a Mickey Newbury composition called "San Francisco Mabel Joy."

I remembered the song when I heard it, had discovered it as a kid, playing the tar out of the 8-track version of this album. (What an awful technology.) Listened to the little story again over the weekend and was quite taken with it. I'm going to see if I can bribe Emily into learning it so we can sing it.

A Google search revealed that both Joan Baez and Waylon Jennings recorded the song, too. Had no idea.

Anyway, here's the lyrics. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Or if you know this song, and love it as much as I do, send an e-mail my way.

San Francisco Mabel Joy

His daddy was an honest man
A red dirt Georgia farmer
His mama lived her young life having kids and bailing hay
He had fifteen years and an ache inside to wander
Jumped a freight in Waycross and wound up in LA.

Oh, the cold nights had no pity on that Waycross Georgia farm boy
Most days he went hungry then the summer came
He met a girl known on the Strip as San Francisco's Mabel Joy
Destitution's child born on an L.A. street called shame.

Growing up came quietly in the arms of Mabel Joy
Laughter found the mornings that brought the meaning to his life
Night before she left sleep came and found that Waycross country boy
With dreams of Georgia cotton and a California wife.

Sunday morning found him neath the red light at her door
A right cross sent him reelin' and put him face down on the floor
In place of Mabel Joy he found a merchant mad marine
He said your Georgia neck is red but, sonny, you're still green.

He turned 21 in a grey rock Federal prison
The ol' judge had no mercy on this Waycross Georgia boy
Starin' at those four grey walls in silence Lord he'd listen
To the midnight freight he knew could take him back to Mabel Joy.

Sunday morning found him neath the red light at her door
With a bullet in his side he cried have you seen Mabel Joy
Stunned and shaken someone said she don't live here anymore
She left this house four years ago, they say she's lookin' for

Some Georgia farm boy...

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