Local musician and songwriter Doug Walters (of FunHouse, Torture Town, The Problems) recently put some words together about the albums that had the most profound effect on him and changed his life. This is the part three of the ongoing weekly series:
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gold & Platinum
The double album of greatest hits. Skynyrd was a working man’s band. They had that southern grit and grease with back-woods swagger and country soul. They were honest. And cool. And tough. And fun. If the band was a person, it’d be a rugged, simple man’s man. That wore boots and drank Jack Daniel’s straight from the bottle, and Budweiser from the can. Before noon. Maybe dipped snuff and had a hell of a handshake. Loved his mama, and made it to church at least once a month (albeit, probably still drunk from the night before), and spent a night or two in County every couple of months. And hell with a hammer. And underneath a lifetime of sweat and chain-saw grease, you could rest assured his collar would be as blue as the blue on the American flag.
To me, Steve Gaines was Skynyrd’s secret weapon. The boy could play. He had that clean, plucky pickin’ thing down. I’ve always loved his playing. And Ronnie really sold that band. You couldn’t help but like him. What he lacked in technicality he more than made up for in heart. Drummer Artimus Pyle was practically a comic book hero. A true character. I remember hearing him say Ronnie hired him specifically to light a fire under the band. And did he ever. And three lead guitarists? Forget about it. Billy Powell tickling those keys and laying on that B3? Yes sir. They had a sweet, full sound that really hummed. If you weren’t having fun with Skynyrd, your motor needed checkin’.
Though I gravitated towards their darker, rockin’ stuff like “Saturday Night Special,” “Gimme Back My Bullets,” “That Smell,” and “On The Hunt,” Skynyrd had a few different sides. They could tug on your heart with ballads like “Simple Man” and “Tuesday’s Gone.” And they had the tongue-in-cheek humor thing too. “Gimme Three Steps” was a standout track in this regard. I loved the story. Those good ol’ country boys really worked the ladies, didn’t they? They had already told us of their proclivity for raisin’ hell and chasin’ skirts in “What’s Your Name,” but that seemed to back fire on Ronnie in “Three Steps.” Every once in a while you mess with the wrong man’s old lady. And it can get ugly. So much so you may even piss yourself and have to beg to get out alive. It looked pretty bad there for Ronnie for a minute, but I was sure glad he made it out. And I thought it was quite gentlemanly of the upset boyfriend to give him a little head start. Red neck chivalry in the midst of juke joint adultery and murder. (Things got real interesting down in the Deep South.) I always thought scenes like that were pretty common place for Skynryd. It made me want to be in a band. And get in trouble. It made me want to be in Lynyrd Skynyrd. And be Ronnie’s wing man.
The other really distinct thing about Gold & Platinum was the inside jacket with the sloppily drawn picture of Skynyrd rocking out live. I thought it was funny how they could have had anything they wanted and they chose some wino looking thing like that. I always assumed it had to be a drawing by one of their friends. On a 10-day drunk. And it was just sort of an inside joke. I thought gave Skynyrd a lot of balls. To not give a damn so much as to have the record company print out 30 million albums like that. Classic Skynyrd.
I loved the slightly muted staccato artificial harmonics in “Saturday Night Special.” It gave it such a toughness. Such darkness. Evil muscle, if you will. (Eddie Van Halen had that vibe too. On “On Fire” is a good example of this technique.) I couldn’t get enough of it. It still gets me off.
Though Gold & Platinum had a good sense of humor to it, it’d get mean on you — the second you thought you could trust it enough to relax or turn your back. Kind of like a pet snake. Sure it’s fun to have to show off at parties, but don’t get too flippant about it. It’ll eat your kids if you aren’t careful. Gold & Platinum was a lovable pet snake that would just as soon eat your kids.
“I Know a Little” or “Down South Jukin’” would trick you into letting your guard down. “On The Hunt” or “Gimme Back My Bullets” would turn you into snake food. I found myself in Skynrd’s belly many a time. I’d just wait ’til he crapped me out and would try my luck again.
Next week: Hendrix, Van Halen, ZZ Top, and Rush!