A part of everything is here in me
February 9, 2018 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I find this album remarkable because it seems to BARELY have any percussion played on it at all, instead relying on the strumming of guitars to provide what drums normally would. It's like music that would be played on your front porch, only done in a studio.
posted by hippybear at 11:10 AM on February 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

This and "Aerie" (which, as I discovered as an adult, had song writing credits from some serious heavy-hitters) comprised the 8-track soundtrack of my childhood.

posted by notsnot at 11:20 AM on February 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

So this album was in my dad's LP collection, and it's how I came to "Paradise" as a kid - it was only later in life when I first heard John Prine that I was like "Oh. I thought that was a JOHN DENVER song!"

Anyway, by that point the lyrics were burned into my brain. So about two weeks ago, I was standing on a street corner waiting for the light to change and this one guy was talking about John Prine to his buddy, who didn't seem that familiar with his songs, so he was talking about the songwriting in "Paradise." He said some like "There's this amazing line where he talks about the smell of snakes...oh, I can't quite remember it..."

At that point I whirled around and said "Where the air smelled like snakes and we'd shoot with our pistols/But empty pop bottles is all we would kill!!!"

The guy was like "THAT'S IT! THANK YOU!"

I think his buddy thought I was a completely unhinged rando.

Then I said, with an overabundance of enthusiasm, "And actually, I know the lyrics off by heart thanks to John Denver's Rock Mountain High album!"

He was like "Oh, that's an awesome album!"

I think this just confirmed his buddy's initial impression of me.


This is the second time in two weeks my introduction to Paradise via John Denver has come to mind.

I find this album remarkable because it seems to BARELY have any percussion played on it at all

In my childhood memory of giving this album repeat listens, I can clearly recall that the percussive guitar on "Prisoners" really grabbed me. This is a great album.

Thanks for the post!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:39 AM on February 9, 2018 [13 favorites]

I'm gonna say it; John Denver had the best male voice in 20th Century pop. That doesn't make him the best singer; but man, that voice. Like an angel.
posted by Admiral Viceroy at 11:46 AM on February 9, 2018 [12 favorites]

> man, that voice

It feels so simple, but is still always effortlessly in tune. A little bit of "here we go!" for the "never saw eagles flyyyyy!" is as much work as he seems to put into it. I know that that's not right, that he was a dedicated professional -- but he sounds so casual.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:56 AM on February 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

but is still always effortlessly in tune.

And this is 1972. All the vocal tuning technology we have now didn't exist then. He actually sang all that stuff and sang it that well.
posted by hippybear at 12:02 PM on February 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

John Denver at the PMRC Hearings 1 2
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:05 PM on February 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

> He actually sang all that stuff

Here's a lovely version of Prisoners, showing how well he can do it live (that is, just like in the studio).
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:07 PM on February 9, 2018

I had thought Denver was a total square and had no time for him by the mid-80's, but when he joined Zappa and Dee Snyder in fighting the PMRC, my respect for him shot through the roof. I'm still on the fence about his music, but I will always admire him for bringing his wholesome reputation to congress and then - BOOM - fighting against censorship. One of us, one of us.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:27 PM on February 9, 2018 [6 favorites]

My parents had him on 8-track. Loved it.
posted by 4ster at 12:33 PM on February 9, 2018

Of course, the mild-mannered Denver occasionally cut loose.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 12:36 PM on February 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am a Coloradan, and, thus, have really really complicated feelings about John Denver. "Rocky Mountain High" is one of our state songs (the other one, no one has listened to, played, or sung for at least 80 years, probably), and helped spur a ton of migration here in the 1970s and 1980s, along with making people think my home state is filled with white people in down vests hanging out by mountain streams.

When I'm home, hearing the song makes me one to stab someone in the hand.

But now I live in a different part of the country, and when I hear it in a restaurant or the grocery store, I get really homesick and sniffly and wish I was wearing a down vest next to a mountain stream.
posted by heurtebise at 12:47 PM on February 9, 2018 [14 favorites]

Last week it was Ernest movies, this week, John Denver.

Like most houses in the 70's we had an 8 track player, and we had John Denver's Greatest Hits, and my best friend and I thought he was one of the best. Things. EVER.
Everyone else in the Tampa Bay area loved Jimmy Buffett or Rush or Skynyrd, we had John Denver.
Both of us are hitting the mid-fifties, and still think he's wonderful.
Big regret? Not seeing him in concert.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 12:54 PM on February 9, 2018 [6 favorites]

It's an interesting ensemble that was assembled to play on this record: Eric Weissberg, who plays fiddle and guitar, arranged and performed "Dueling Banjos" for Deliverance that same year. Gary Chester, on drums, played on a shitload of hit songs from the 50's through the 70's. Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert contribute backup vocals—as The Starland Vocal Band they would have their own hit with "Afternoon Delight" and briefly host their own TV show, The Starland Vocal Band Show, featuring a young David Letterman. And Martine Habib had already covered Lee Hazelwood's "Summer Wine" with Gilles Marchal.

There's probably no record that makes me feel more like a 6 or 7 year old listening to it with my mom.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:57 PM on February 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love his music so much. John Denver, Bread, Eric Carmen, Gordon Lightfoot, all soothed my angst-filled teenaged soul in high school. That's the music I took with me to college. Where I then learned about Blondie, Patti Smith, et al who spoke to me in a different way....
posted by agatha_magatha at 1:02 PM on February 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

John Denver at the PMRC Hearings

Wow, part 1 of this just made me burst into unexpected tears.

When I was young and in boy scouts we would schedule our week-long 50 mile hikes to conceit with the August meteor shower. We'd be miles from civilizations and would lie in our sleeping bags around the campfire and stare up at the sky while streaks of light flew across the star field.

One year, one night we had a GIGANTIC FIREBALL that was astounding. Meteor streaks are one thing, but that was something else. It wasn't in the rocky mountains, but it changed things for me somehow.
posted by hippybear at 1:06 PM on February 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

"Rocky Mountain High" is the perfect exemplar of plausible deniability. "It's about being high on life, man, I swear!"
posted by clawsoon at 4:51 PM on February 9, 2018

In college, I was travelling in Japan and stayed with a host family. They knew about as much English as I did Japanese, which was near nil. The first night was fairly awkward. That is, until my host dad had an idea. He went into the bedroom and brought back an acoustic guitar and a stack of guitar tab magazines with John Denver on the cover. We stayed up until early in the morning singing John Denver songs and drinking shochu, getting a thorough talking -to from his wife the next morning. It's one of my favorite travel memories.
posted by bassooner at 5:51 PM on February 9, 2018 [10 favorites]

I was living in graduate student housing at the University of Chicago in the late 1980s when the Tiananmen Square protests happened. There were a bunch of Chinese students in our building, and one night they met in the common area to talk about the situation. The meeting ran late into the night and eventually they started singing: my bedroom was right next to the common area and I was trying to sleep, but I had to laugh when they started singing John Denver's "Take me Home, Country Roads".
posted by mogget at 7:17 PM on February 9, 2018

I mostly unabashedly love John Denver (save me some old school Catholic abashedness for loving anything secular - says the current day atheist). I don't remember much of childhood but damn do I remember bouncing around in hot Florida summers in a 1980 Chevy suburban with an extra heavy duty suspension with fuzzy seats that smelled like the news print and ink that we'd put into her every night to deliver. As we bumped around on those roads, my mom would play some John Denver tape in the tape deck and we'd always sing along - particularly to Take me Home, Country Roads and Grandma's Feather Bed.

Ok, I'm going off over here to have a moment.
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:04 PM on February 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

Here's a lovely version of Prisoners

posted by hippybear at 8:12 PM on February 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I learned that "Darcy Farrow" was not in fact a modern take on an actual Olden Tyme folk song, I was amazed. It's such a perfect example of that genre. One of my very favorites.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:43 PM on February 9, 2018

Love love love JD.

agatha_magatha if you love clear voiced crooners how about Burton Cummings heavenly blue
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:10 PM on February 9, 2018

Far out, man!
posted by TedW at 4:00 AM on February 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

I just realized I am now older than John Denver was when he died. That’s a strange feeling. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend the documentary John Denver: Country Boy. It looks like it’s available on iTunes and from PBS. It can probably be found elsewhere as well, but it is hard to google for without getting a thousand results related to the song.
posted by TedW at 4:26 AM on February 10, 2018

I fell in love with John Denver's music because of the Muppet Show. His tv episode and fabulous Christmas Show (slyt). Getting older, I appreciated his craft and his skills with his songwriting e.g., Leaving on Jet Plane.
posted by jadepearl at 1:32 PM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I feel I must add the Toots and the Maytals cover of Country Roads. Take me home, west Jamaica...
posted by clawsoon at 8:12 AM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

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