January 3, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year...2009...this is the first blog of the year and I wanted to start the year off with a blog about the very few drinking songs that Ray has recorded through the years...which ties in with the New Year's Eve celebrations from a few days back.

Don't mind the promo picture for GITARZAN...this promo picture was circulated throughout the various magazines in 1969 as a way to promote the single, which hit the Top-10 on the pop chart that year and ended up becoming a Gold record as a result.

Now...looking at the few drinking songs, we start off with a couple of songs from the early to mid 1960's. These two songs are not classified as drinking songs but they deal with that sort of lifestyle. "It's Party Time", a b-side of one of Ray's early 1960's hits entitled "Speed Ball". The a-side was a novelty song about a motorcyclist. The single hit the pop Top-60 and the R&B Top-30 in 1963. The b-side, "It's Party Time", is a song about a broken relationship.

A few years later, "Party People" was recorded. This particular song is about the people who party their lives away searching for fun and thrills and never really doing any kind of living at all. This, too, isn't a drinking song in the stereotypical sense. In 1969 he recorded and released his version of "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", a song about an alcoholic man facing a morning-after scenario...a hang-over, to put it bluntly, having beer for breakfast and dessert...easily allowing listeners to assume the man has beer at all times of the day. Although Ray's recording I felt was wonderful, his image couldn't sell the song...so it didn't become a Top-40 hit for him although it was commercially successful enough to make the charts, reaching the lower regions of the Hot 100 and hitting the country chart, marking this single as his debut on the country charts. The song, of course, went on to become a country classic for Johnny Cash.

"Idaho Wine" uses cultural references to explain why a couple are different as night and day. It's not a drinking song, but it features alcohol in it's title. It's from his 1973 album LOSIN' STREAK. In 1978 Ray recorded his version of "One Mint Julep", which was a hit for Rudolph Toombs, it's songwriter, as well as a hit for Ray Charles. Shift six years to 1984...Ray recorded a humorous but bittersweet song about drinking: "Happy Hour Is The Saddest Time of the Day". On this recording we're treated to a one-sided conversation between Ray and a woman as we hear him ask her why she's left him and through the use of alcohol references and other memories, he tells her that Happy Hour is now basically "sad hour".

A few years later, "The Day That Clancy Drowned" was recorded. This novelty song is about a man who worked at a Milwaukee brewery but died on the job when he fell into a vat of beer. That recording is from 1987. Later, in 1990, he recorded "Jack Daniels, You Lied To Me Again". This particular recording has a boogie-woogie/honky-tonk feel...very up-tempo...it's a song about a man who has bad luck with women in spite of the often-held belief that alcohol gives any man courage and success in love. Each encounter always leads the man to regret it the next morning and he blames it on the whiskey.

In 1997 he recorded and made a music video for "Too Drunk To Fish", a comedy song about a couple of guys who go fishing. Ray packs and gets ready for a typical fishing trip out on the lake while his buddy, Harold, packs the alcohol and takes it along. Harold, however, gets drunk while fishing and gets the two of them in one predicament after the other...by the end of the song Harold mistakes a search-light on a rescue helicopter as a message from God and pleads that he's swore of alcohol. Ray plays both characters...Harold doesn't have a speaking role until the end...pleading for the Lord to spare him. The same year Ray recorded "The Annual Office Christmas Party" which features shades of alcohol references as we're taken to a company party and how wild the people get as the night goes on, due to the drinking.

As you can tell, none of these are what you'd call "drinking songs" in the same category as those by George Jones or Moe Bandy, for example, except "Sunday Morning Coming Down"...but by and large, those Ray Stevens recordings feature alcohol references...so Happy New Year.

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