If I Leave Here Tomorrow

Even though I’m not a massive fan one of my main musical time-travel fantasies involves seeing Lynyrd Skynyrd on a swelteringly hot summer’s night in Alabama in 1974.  It just always seems like a perfect conjunction of time, place and spirit to me; not to mention the chance to see a genuine, legendary shit-kicking band in full flight.  Sadly the best I’m likely to get these days is to spin Skynyrd’s Innyrds a few times, whilst sitting against a radiator drinking whisky* and trying to look mean.  Man, you should see my legendary mean look – one glimpse and you’ll be singing,

Won’t you give me three steps,
Gimme three steps mister,
Gimme three steps towards the door?
Gimme three steps
Gimme three steps mister,
And you’ll never see me no more

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Everyone likes ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, everyone – Neil Young loved it** and it was a dig at him.  Look there are tribes of undiscovered pygmies in (devilishly clever link to last post, ahoy!) Papua New Guinea who could sing along to it on the radio.  It’s a moment of genius, such as is rarely given to any decade, let alone band.  I love it, truly.  You can’t believe that funkiness, that joy, that tune, that, umm, defence of unsophisticated political views.  It is sweet perfection.

Apart from that and digging old footage (there’s a great Old Grey Whistle Test version) of the band letting ‘Free Bird’ take full flight and the fact that ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ is used at a pivotal point in my all-time favourite film, Dazed And Confused, the rest of their stuff just never really grabbed me. Maybe I was just too young, too green, too British.  I bought Skynyrd’s Innyrds for Mrs 1537 (favourite song ever = ‘Sweet Home Alabama’) back in July 2001 and here I am only 12.5 years later fast getting obsessed by it.  Helped, it has to be said, by an incredibly good 16 page Mojo article on the band from many, many years ago, which is particularly good on their rise and the survivor’s difficulties after the crash.

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Put out by MCA in 1989 Skynyrd’s Innyrds feels like it was put together for the fans with all the love a rat catcher has for his prey – wallop! there you go Goddamn rats; crap cover – check; no liner notes – check; no inner sleeve – check! This is product pure and simple, cheap production vales = maximum profit.  The carrot for existing fans consisted of outtakes of ‘Double Trouble’ and ‘Free Bird’ – fair enough, the latter, all 10 minutes plus of it is pretty damn amazing – it’s astonishing that they could find some free corners to shoe horn in some extra guitars, but they did.

View showing the lavishly illustrated inner sleeve and liner notes.
View showing the lavishly illustrated inner sleeve and liner notes.

The ten tracks here are pretty safe selections and I find myself drawn far more to the tracks from the first two Skynyrd LPs – ‘Swamp Music’,’ Gimme Three Steps’, the JJ Cale cover, ‘Call Me The Breeze’.  What strikes me the most here is their lightness of touch, their funkiness abounds, their classic rhythm section of Ed King and Bob Burns was wonderful, up there with Dusty Hill and Frank Beard and I wouldn’t ever say that lightly.  Al Kooper’s production is spot on too, each instrument sounds together, separate and loved in the mix.  Oh and there’s Ronnie.

The legends around Ronnie Van Zant have drifted into folklore and, umm, legend.  Like all semi-psychotic tomcatting bruisers, there are plenty of stories about how nice he could be on occasion, personally I’d have stayed well clear.  This was his band and his vision and he had the clout, the drive and necessary devilment to propel them where he wanted to go; or at least until his own and the band’s alcoholic and narcotic proclivities got in the way.  Whilst not the best musically, the lyrics of ‘That Smell’ are brilliant, the line ‘The smell of death surrounds you’ given extra resonance by his own death.  I love his voice, it really is a proper man’s voice, you can tell he lived, loved and fought most of these tales for real.

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I think that’s a real chunk of the fun for lilly-livered, pinko, happily-married me in any case, the chance to be a hard-brawlin’, unfaithful son of a gun vicariously, every time I spin the LP.  Except a hard-brawlin’, unfaithful son of a gun, without a charge sheet, or various debilitating genital rashes and with a pension.  Although I do quote the lyrics to ‘Free Bird’ to Mrs 1537 whenever she tries to get me to do stuff around the house (‘and this bird you cannot change’), it doesn’t seem to get me anywhere.

see Mrs 1537? that twig In our garden yesterday? that's where the bird was.  He's flown, you couldn't change him.
See Mrs 1537? that twig In our garden yesterday, see that? that’s where the bird was. He’s flown, you couldn’t change him.

I’ve already branched out a bit and e-Bayed the first two Lynyrd Skynyrd LPs this week^, so I’ll be a bit less of a novice soon.  But until I’ve ingested them properly Skynyrd’s Innyrds will do me just fine.

342 Down.

*although I’m not really manly enough for it; Southern Comfort’s about as close as I get and although it’s got the ‘S’ word in it, I’m not really sure It’d cut it in that company.

**apparently thrilled to be name-checked in a song of that quality, he became friends with the band soon after.  Let’s face it ‘Sweet Home …’, kicks ‘Southern Man’s ass all day long.

^ Look into my eyes – you are feeling sleepy – you can’t remember when I foolishly said I wasn’t going to buy any LPs this year – when you wake up you won’t remember this footnote – 3,2,1 wake …

20 thoughts on “If I Leave Here Tomorrow

  1. “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” was always a favorite of mine. Sadly, I never got into Lynyrd Skynyrd like the rest of the Midwest and south. I liked songs that weren’t hits. “Mississippi Kid” off their debut was one I always enjoyed as well. I had a cousin that really dug these guys and I endured many car rides with LS cassettes playing. I think they were a hell of a band and should’ve called it quits when the heart and soul died in that plane crash.

    Having said that, looking at that full band photo I think Philip Seymour Hoffman(RIP)could’ve played Ronnie Van Zant. The resemblance is remarkable.

  2. I got into Skynyrd when I was in the service. Spending a lot of time in the South has that effect. I have heard most of their stuff and can’t say anything bad about any of it.

  3. Brilliant use of Legos here.

    This is a band that I have not delved into. I know most of the hits, like most of the hits…you’re convincing me to check out some kind of album, be it compilation or studio I’m undecided.

    I loved Freebird in The Devil’s Rejects.

    I also loved that you said “lilly-livered,” and double points for using it to refer to your pinko married self! Hilarity that cause coffee to end up on my keyboard. Somebody’s going to have to pay for that.

    1. Many thanks, Mike ‘Laughing boy’ Ladano. I think a better-appointed greatest hits should be fine, I just wanted to make the point that MCA just hadn’t wasted any time, effort or money chucking this one together – although the music speaks for itself.

      Anyway, can’t stop now I gotta be free … tell Linda-Louanne I won’t be home tonight.

      1. I know with Skynyrd there are plenty of great CD collections out there. It’s just a matter of time and place. I think a single disc is the way to start.

      1. Umm… Pretty much. Not sure about the God bit though, being a card-carrying Black Metal terrorist. Put your faith in the Devil! It’s the power of Mephistopheles that compels you!

        But joking aside. The first 3 are ace. Can’t go wrong. And Street Survivors is great too if you like those.

  4. Think I aways gave them a wide birth as thrift shop Allman Brothers. Worth a reassessment, perhaps? Though as I rate Southern Man’s lyric as Wordsworthian compared to the chewing-gum wrapper of Sweet Home Alabama, maybe not.

    Lyrical quibbles notwithstanding, Southern Comfort by the radiator has been duly added to the Vinyl Connection agenda for the coming winter. Feeling warmer already.

  5. I have always been a sucker for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s bluesy numbers. The first two albums are a great place to start. And remember to drink your Southern Comfort straight from the bottle when listening to Ronnie for full southern experience.

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