Thursday, September 02, 2010

"A Horse with No Name" (1972)

74. America, "A Horse with No Name" (March 4, 1972, #1, 3 wks.)

I never heard the faux Neil Young in this that I heard others complaining about, at least not at the time, so I never had that problem with it. In fact, I adored it almost from the first moment, as I did so many America songs in spite of myself. I appear to have something of a weakness for the act, though I think only "Ventura Highway" or "Tin Man" come close to rivaling this. In honesty, this might actually count as another personal choice, one that I favor because it reminds me of events in my life. On the other hand, it's put together pretty well: the neat and easy acoustic strumming that provides the entry point, Dewey Bunnell's softly clarion, vaguely anemic vocals as he starts in on his nonsense story, and the la-la-la harmonies from the other two members of the trio that come along to support him. The bongos are a nice touch too, and what the heck, so are the dopey, mysterious words: deserts and horses and hot sun and can't remember your name, sure, OK, cool. In terms of the music, yes, it does borrow heavily, or even outright steals, various laidback West Coast stylings popular at the time—the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Byrds, whatnot. America (a terrible name, by the way, I have always thought that) nonetheless found a way to get this done and onto the charts at the time, so give them, or their management, all credit due. All right, I'm done with the caveats now. I admit it. I love this. The effect it has on me remains one that is unparalleled and sublime, lovely and evocative and fragile and moving. I enjoy it any time I happen to hear it, under any circumstances. It makes me feel sad and happy all at once together.

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