Thursday, November 20, 2014

Norman Greenbaum, "Spirit in the Sky" (1970)

March 7, 1970, #3

If it's possible, I love this song now more than I did in 1970. Actually, it's quite possible, because I took it so much for granted back then. Notwithstanding, it was always mysterious. Who was Norman Greenbaum and why was he saying these things? I explained the religious bent to myself by assuming he was a Jesus freak, as we said, for which I forgave him (my more generous years). But it never stopped seeming strange sitting there in the middle of the radio, the impeccable rock 'n' roll instincts marshalled up against words about dying and a friend in Jesus and such, with handclaps, and all with no evident hint of worry about anything (and no irony either). Always, always irresistible and best played loud. With Wikipedia to help, we find out that songwriter and performer Norman Greenbaum, with connections to the Lovin' Spoonful and Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band (not to be confused with Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show), saw Porter Wagoner on TV and decided he wanted to write a gospel song, a thought experiment on his part about what went into one. Obviously he took liberties because you don't usually hear that kind of raw fuzz on a gospel recording, but that's exactly what makes it. It sounds so blasted powerful, vibrating and wrapping itself around your head and his voice with a sound as big as outer space. No wonder I took it for granted he'd had a vision. In a way, he did. We need more visions of that kind too, the kind which result in raw fuzz tone guitars. Also: needle drop in the YouTube video.

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