Tag Archives: John Prine

What are you gonna do with time

John Prine and I went way back.

In the mid-’70s, I was introduced to his music by a guy who covered his songs. Pat Houlihan sang John Prine’s songs at The Office, an old tavern in Wausau, Wisconsin, right next to the fire station.

But we saw John Prine himself only once, in 2002. He played the big 2,000-seat theater on the UW-Green Bay campus. Our seats were on the main floor, but we were quite a ways back.

It was a good show, and it was great to see him, but I kinda felt like I had to share him with too many people. For a good 25 years before that night, it had always been just me and Prine hanging out in my living room with his records.

When it’s my time and I’ve gone, I hope they play a John Prine song so folks can smile. This song. The advance directive John Prine wrote way back in 1973.

“Please Don’t Bury Me,” John Prine, from “Sweet Revenge,” 1973. Still my favorite John Prine record.

When my dad died almost three years ago, the funeral director asked me whether I wanted my dad’s watch. First, I thought, no. Dad never went anywhere without his watch. Then, I decided, yes. The funeral director handed me a small drawstring pouch with the watch inside.

The other night, John Prine put me at ease about that decision.

Embedded in one of the stories I read that night was the last song on his last record, “When I Get To Heaven,” from “The Tree Of Forgiveness,” which came out in 2018. I hadn’t heard it before, but it was as if it was me and Prine were hanging out in my living room again. Psst. Hey, buddy …

Yeah when I get to heaven / I’m gonna take that wristwatch off my arm

What are you gonna do with time / After you’ve bought the farm?

Couldn’t help but smile. John Prine had given me his blessing.

See, you don’t need that watch, Dad. One of the grandkids, or one of their kids, might like to have it someday. You know you’d like that.

Besides, don’t all the trains run on time now?


Filed under April 2020, Sounds

Politicians won’t steal this

A politician uses a popular song at a rally. The band, or the artist, objects.

It’s often a good story, but you wonder. How many campaign staffs even bother contacting bands to obtain the rights to use their music?

Seems like it might be more a case of begging forgiveness rather than seeking permission. Or, in many cases, simply seeing what you can get away with.

Those tactics apparently are so pervasive that there’s an online guide for performers: “What To Do When A Campaign Uses Your Recorded Music Without Permission.”

The first major overstep apparently was Ronald Reagan’s use of “Born in the U.S.A.” in 1984, to which Bruce Springsteen objected.

Donald Trump has offended the Rolling Stones and Queen and Neil Young and R.E.M. and Paul Rodgers and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Other repeat offenders: John McCain offended Van Halen, John Cougar Mellencamp, Heart, Jackson Browne, Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, Tom Petty and ABBA. George W. Bush offended Mellencamp, Petty and the band Orleans.

The members of Survivor pounce when someone uses “Eye of the Tiger” without permission. They’ve sued, or threatened to sue, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich and Kim Davis and Mitt Romney, among others, for doing so.

Special mention to two Wisconsin politicians. Paul Ryan offended Rage Against the Machine, saying he was a fan. Now that is quite an odd couple. Scott Walker offended the Dropkick Murphys. Join the club, fellas.

Though Republicans most often draw musicians’ ire, Democrats do, too.

For all those politicians, a timely reminder.

john prine 1st lp

“Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore,” John Prine, from “John Prine,” 1971.

Man, seeing this, I still can’t believe Alice Cooper wasn’t elected in 1972.

Which reminds me. My friend Timebomb Tom said “this Warren Zevon album cover makes me want to re-visit the Zevon-faked-his-own-death-and-really-is-Bernie-Sanders theory.”

warren zevon stand in the fire

Wish Zevon was still here to help us sort through the lawyers, guns and money.


Finally, our strongest endorsement …

My friend Larry Grogan dropped “Testify,” a powerful take on the issues of the day, over at his mighty Funky 16 Corners blog last week. Read his post. Listen to the mix. Register to vote. Larry says:

Brothers and Sisters … the time has come …

There’s a little more than three months until Americans head to the polls and make the decision that will determine how (or whether) this country moves forward.

This mix gathers together black artists from the worlds of soul, funk, gospel and rock, with songs that were created in response to oppression and racism (here in the U.S., Jamaica, the UK and Apartheid-era South Africa), crying out for an end to both and many of them asking not for separation, but for recognition, unity and progress.

Dig. That.


Filed under July 2016, Sounds

Kind of absurd, but great memories


Hard to believe that Steve Goodman has been gone 30 years today. Leukemia.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we met at the merch table after a show in Madison, Wisconsin? When he autographed my record to Joe, and not to Jeff? I still smile at that.

No, it’s been 31 years since he opened for fellow folk singer Leo Kottke at the old Madison Civic Center, a show I remember nothing about.

Kinda wondering what people remember of Steve Goodman today.

Probably most know him for the songs he wrote about his beloved Chicago Cubs. If you’ve visited here during the Christmas season, you know his charming live version of “Winter Wonderland” is one of our seasonal faves.

“It’s kind of absurd/when you don’t know the words/to sing/
walkin’ in a winter wonderland!”

I probably was introduced to Steve Goodman’s music in 1976 or 1977 by my friend Pat Houlihan, a folk singer from central Wisconsin who also introduced me to the music of John Prine, who was Goodman’s friend. I liked Goodman and Prine for the same reason. There’s a lot of humor in real life. They saw that, and wrote songs accordingly.

So let’s listen to some Steve Goodman. He wrote or co-wrote all but one song.

stevegoodman high and outside lp

“Men Who Love Women Who Love Men,” an irreverent but perceptive take on sexual identity.

“The One That Got Away,” a duet with Nicolette Larson on a song wistfully remembering life’s missed opportunities.

Both from “High And Outside,” Steve Goodman, 1979. His second-to-last major-label record, on Asylum. Goodman produced it, but the arrangements are almost too lush, too rich for his sometimes-thin voice.

stevegoodman artistic hair

“You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” a country music spoof co-written with John Prine, and a hit for David Allan Coe. Goodman improvised the final verse to include references to Mama, trains, trucks, prison and getting drunk, which Coe thought every great country song needs.

“City Of New Orleans,” which really launched Goodman’s career when it became a hit for Arlo Guthrie in 1972.

Both from “Artistic Hair,” Steve Goodman, 1983. A wonderful collection of live performances from over a 10-year period. I’m generally not big on live records, but this is really the only way to get the essence of Steve Goodman.

stevegoodman affordable art lp

“Souvenirs,” a duet with John Prine on the familiar song written by Prine and first heard on Prine’s second LP, “Diamonds In The Rough,” from 1972.

“Talk Backwards,” a goofy take full of double-speak.

Both from “Affordable Art,” Steve Goodman, 1984. This was the last record released before Goodman’s death. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Thanks to Clay Eals, Goodman’s biographer, for the 30-year reminder.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.


Filed under September 2014, Sounds

My soul went through the ceiling

Well, somebody’s gotta put it out here in the blogosphere, even though no less than the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have referenced it today.


“Dear Abby,” John Prine, from “Sweet Revenge,” 1973. Out of print but available digitally. Recorded live at the State University of New York in New Paltz, New York.

It’s a great song from a fine record, one I’ve had forever. This is as good a time as any to pull it out and listen to it again.

“Sweet Revenge” is one of those records from a time when I didn’t have many. I played each one over and over. All I need do is look at that blue-framed jacket and all those songs come rushing back.

So let’s enjoy one more from John Prine, the great Chicago folk singer.

“Please Don’t Bury Me,” also from “Sweet Revenge,” 1973. Also available digitally.

This is one of the songs I’d like played at my funeral, although I sure would like to see everyone’s reaction to that. (That’s the late, great Steve Goodman on acoustic guitar. He was Prine’s best friend, and he plays electric or acoustic guitar on most of the cuts on this record.)

My friend Pat Houlihan introduced me to John Prine in the mid-’70s. Pat was a good-natured hippie folk singer with long, curly hair. He played solo gigs on the tiny stage at The Office, an old neighborhood bar next to the downtown fire station in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin.

Now living in New Mexico and still performing, Pat recalls those nights at The Office as “some of my seminal solo gigs.” Those nights also were my first forays into live music in a club. Our tiny table full of beer glasses, we eagerly waited for the John Prine songs to turn up in Pat’s sets.

These John Prine songs.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.


Filed under January 2013, Sounds

Explain, please

There are 18,000 people in our suburb, but there’s evidence that it is nonetheless a small town.

Sitting out on a table near the checkouts at the grocery store the other morning was the most recent issue of our local police newsletter. Always good reading. Especially this item:

“(An officer) was on patrol late one night, when he came across a naked male and female having sex in a field of East Lawn Park.”

“Uhh … do it, baby .. uhh … mmm … mmm-hmm!”

“Doin’ It,” Ike and Tina Turner and The Ikettes, from “Come Together,” 1970. Out of print.

Oh, but it gets better.

“Upon seeing the officer, both took off running down the trail into Green Bay. The female was apprehended shortly thereafter …”

“In the daytime Mary Hill was a teaser/Come the night she was such a pleaser/Oh, Mary Hill was such a thrill after dark/In Cherry Hill Park.”

“Cherry Hill Park,” Billy Joe Royal, 1969, from “Billy Joe Royal Greatest Hits,” a 1989 CD release on Columbia. It’s out of print, but Amazon has mp3s. (The single is Columbia 44902. Thanks, Whiteray!)

Oh, but it gets better still.

” … however the male, in an attempt to avoid responding officers, swam out into the middle of the East River. Eventually, he gave up after being told a (police dog) was being deployed to bring him back to shore.”

“Hug me, squeeze me, love me, tease me/Til I can’t, til I can’t, til I can’t take no more of it/Take me to the water, drop me in the river/Push me in the water, drop me in the river.”

“I don’t know why I love you like I do/All the troubles you put me through.”

“Take Me To The River,” Talking Heads, from “More Songs About Buildings and Food,” 1978.

Just one question: How, exactly, is this a threat to the public’s safety?

“I ain’t hurtin’ nobody/I ain’t hurtin’ no one/Hurtin’ nobody/Hurtin’ no one.”

“Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody,” John Prine, from “Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings,” 1995.


Filed under September 2008, Sounds