Tuesday, August 08, 2006


The Tom Waits show is tomorrow. We're gettin' prepared here at the Mountain. Thanks for the e-mails. It looks as if some industrious folks might have already set up a meeting place before the show here in Chicago at Hackney's (see the always fantastic Eyeball Kid for details). I'm a little peculiarized about the place they've chosen (great burgers...so so bar), but I'll probably stop by. There's better Waitsian (whatever that is) bars in the area. Ah, well. A drink's a drink. If you happen to be at the Chicago show, or at the aforementioned Hackney's and happen to spot a feller with a John Deere hat and scraggly beard, say howdy. That'd be me, the walking cliche.

Speaking of bars, and cliches...that's a convenient lead-in to benders.

And Ray Price, of all people.

But benders first. There are quite a few perceptions of what constitutes a bender. For the best take on benders you'd do well to check out The Modern Drunkard (originating from my former home, Denver!). Me, I'm not so keen on the whole fraternal take on benders. Benders don't involve a group of buddies getting together and hitting some dive bars in an attempt to drink themselves silly, ostensibly cheering up or holding up a down in the dumps pal. While that's certainly a fine venture, and necessary at times, it's not really a proper bender. Not to take the romantic view of the enterprise, though, it's really more of a solitary pursuit. A bender isn't defined by time. It's not a one night affair, followed by a hangover and the sudden realization that life's going to be ok, and shit, shave, shower, and off to work. It doesn't involve trendy dive bars and joyous "this is for my friends" banter.

A bender is a lonely affair, where the supposed "friends" are shadows that come and go in reflection on the bar. Not measured in nights or days, but in shots and bills on the counter, it's a giving up more than a grab of desperation. All taking place in the darkest corners, where the neon is a hindrance rather than salvation, and where the one night binge teeters dangerously close to a lifetime of beer stained elbows.

In Chicago we have what are called "old Style Bars". They seemingly have no name, but for the Old Style sign in front. They're found in neighborhoods, as opposed to the downtown (NikeTown) areas, as all things unpleasant are forced farther and farther away from the tourist areas. The windows are dark and clouded, usually with bars or 3-inch thick glass. Slumming frat boys and hipsters are not particularly welcome, nor would they find the glamorous underbelly that Bukowskiites would lead you to believe actually exists. The patrons of these bars are not there to tell you their fascinating life story, nor does such a story exist. There are no rat packers or mumbling mad poets. Just drinkers. And forgetting.

None of that, of course, is in any way intended to represent Ray Price, the man or musician.

Price, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, had a pretty fascinating career, from hardcore country honkytonker and friend of Hank and Willie, to swank balladeering that suggested the beginnings of countrypolitan. It was Hank Williams who helped Price get his big break on the Grand Ole Opry, lending him the Drifting Cowboys as a backing band. Price's most well-known hit was "Crazy Arms", a certified classic, and template for future country styling, A great writer in his own right, Price was also a brilliant interpreter, making definitive renditions of songs by Harlan Howard, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller and Kris Kristofferson. In the late 60's Price all but abandoned the traditional country he so strongly influence, opting for variety, including string sections, blues and jazz based material, and neo-pop. Never one to sacrifice individualism for sales or expectation, Price played what he wanted, however he damn well wanted to play it.

Now what the hell do benders and Ray Price have to do with each other?

I've included two separate versions of Price's "Night Life". Both are distinctive, and I have different reasons for preferring each, at various times. The song itself, written by and performed singularly elsewhere by Willie Nelson, is the ultimate fuzzy neon lights and dirty glass ode to the lost. "City Lights", another Mountain favorite, carries a similar sentiment, and is a presceint tribute to a disappearing landscape. "I Can't Go Home Like This" is by no means an important entry in either Country's or Price's canon. But it's a fun little tune about the after-effects of a night spent out a little too late. Not a bender song, but a nifty little tippler, nonetheless.

When the evening sun goes down
You will find me hanging round
Oh, the night life ain't no good life
But it's my life.

Many people just like me
Dreaming of old used-to-be
Oh, the night life ain't no good life
But it's my life.

Well, listen to the blues they're playin'
Yeah, listen to what the blues are sayin'
Mine is just another scene from the world of broken dreams
Oh, the night life ain't no good life
But it's my life.

Yeah, when the evening sun goes down
You will find me hanging round
Oh, the night life ain't no good life
But it's my life...

Ray Price: Night Life (mp3)

Ray Price: Night Life (mp3)

Ray Price: City Lights (mp3)

Ray Price: I Can't Go Home Like This (mp3)

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Anonymous said...

Hackney's? Gimme The Skyride! Gimme Cal's!

G-Dub said...

"I'm a little peculiarized..." I like that expression, do you mind if I steal it from time to time?

BTW, good Ray Price tunes too.

Happy In Bag said...

Jeff Foxworthy can just keep on calling me a redneck- it's posts like this that make me proud to have a painting of Willie Nelson above my fireplace!

Anonymous said...

You use "has" and "was" in reference to Ray Price and his career. He is still touring at present, and in fine voice as well.

GillianMUK said...

Been trying to get hold of Ray Price doing "night life" since I heard it on the radio a few years back.

Prefer the first version of the song - sounds really drink-sodden & world weary.


Jim Gisriel said...

your blog is pretty coo I have a blog myself and was woundering how you put songs on your blog cause i want to do that I just don't know how

stricki said...

So... how was Tom?

Donnie said...

Whoa, that 2nd version is Billy Sherrill Countrypolitan hooey.

I would have included the original intro on the Night Life album. A 2 minute(!) intro to the album where Ray just has a little chat with the listener - "knockin' on your record player".

Also, what I love about Price is that he was Shatner before Shatner. His loose vocal style is so wonderful, and so fun to sing along with, but easy to mock at the same time. Take Born to Lose for example, off of The Other Woman. Born...To...Lose...

All my life...I've always............
been so blue. Born to lose...and now...I'm losing...you.

Anonymous said...

Got some exciting news brewing here at the Mountain (no, I'm not going daily...I have a life, ferchrissakes). But your gonna have to wait a couple weeks. I guarantee (money back if necessary) it will be well worth your time and patience. Keep your eyes peeled.

Still brewing?

Keep up the great work!