Sunday, May 17, 2009


Luckily, it's a long weekend (at least here in Canada) so you've probably got time to take on one of my favorite looooong songs.

Back in my rock 'n roll years, radio DJ's loved the long song. The first I remember was Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", a story I imparted a while back. But then I moved on to "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida", Vanilla Fudge's "You Keep Me Hangin' On" almost anything by Pink Floyd -- and, of course, the grand daddy of 'em all -- Don Maclean's "American Pie".

That song always reminds me of my first summer in Toronto because CHUM-FM's all night DJ, the inimitable David Pritchard, would play it every night. It was not only a great song, it probably gave David the chance to hit the john and make a fresh pot of coffee to see him through the night.

Yesterday, I was getting groceries and "American Pie" kicked in on the supermarket speakers. It lasted the length of my shopping spree and got me wondering if the feature length song might become a victim of the ADA iPod generation's need for quicker fixes.

And that would be a shame, because while most songwriters can get their point across in the requisite 3 minutes or less, great ones can do amazing things if you give them just a little more bandwidth.

James McMurtry wrote and recorded "Choctaw Bingo" in 2002. But as long as it's been around, I'd venture few of you have heard it. Yet, it's story telling at its best in a genre (Country music) that I've grown to love for what it can teach writers about telling stories.

The son of novelist James McMurtry, the singing offspring probably has story telling embedded in his genes and it shows from opening line to closing coda. In concert, he refers to this composition as an homage to the crystal meth industry, an apt description of the song's complete celebration of "badass".

More infectious than Swine Flu and loaded with lyrics linking Texas football to the small arms trade and picturesque phrases like "Sister twisters", which once heard never leave your memory or your vocabulary, "Choctaw Bingo" just might be the best drivin' song ever.

This is time far from wasted. And perhaps made even better if you are. Enjoy your Sunday.

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