January 21, 2016
‘Gordon Lightfoot Records Are the Best 99 Cents You Can Spend’
Gordon Lightfoot sounds like Canada.
You can be almost anywhere in the country (I’m leaving out the far north) — a kitchen party in Newfoundland, downtown Banff, a farm in Saskatchewan — and if a Gordon Lightfoot single comes on the radio, it sounds like THE soundtrack for wherever you are.
Nicholas Pell sent me this yesterday, since he knows I’m Canadian. I’m not a fan of Lightfoot’s particularly, but as I say, they have insinuated themselves into my mental landscape (with a partial assist from CanCon rules).
I always figured that, like the Group of Seven, Lightfoot’s music wouldn’t travel particularly well, but I was wrong.
(PS: Pell mentions Jim Croce, and it’s possible that Lightfoot would get more respect if he’d died 30 years ago; in fact, to almost everyone’s astonishment, he is still — mostly — alive.)
Into dark lyrics? I sure as hell am. “If You Could Read My Mind” deserves the Steely Dan Award for Dark Lyrics Your Mom Cluelessly Sings Along With at the Supermarket. “Ten Degrees and Getting Colder” is the best song ever written about a man freezing to death on the side of the highway after a woman ruins his life. “Carefree Highway” begins with the decidedly non-carefree line, “Picking up the pieces of my sweet, shattered dreams.” “Sundown” is just what the doctor ordered when you’re feeling down about wanting someone who treats you like shit. If you have a bad mood, Gordon Lightfoot has a song for you.
One cool thing about “Sundown,” by the way, is how the beat or the meter or whatever you call it reminds me of an annoying, slightly sinister dripping faucet, right out of one of Polanski’s “apartment movies.” Perfect for the mood of the song, which is sort of about a guy waiting quietly in the corner in the dark with a shotgun, hoping that bitch’ll have the nerve to show her face around here one more time.
Anyhow, here’s something you won’t see here often — A smidgen of national pride:
It’s long since been cancelled, and pretty deservedly, but before that, Canadian Idol was way ahead of its American counterpart in welcoming singers who also played instruments. They actually stole the idea from us, but I’ll stop before I get too Avro Arrow about that…