Some artists inhabit the soundtrack of your life and some just echo around the street.
Guy Clark lives in my head.
We got home very late on Saturday night and opened a bottle of wine, as you do. It had been a long day, dealing with miserable life-draining bastards on the internet, and crazy, life-enhancing bastards in real life.
I put on some of my favourite bands: Eels, Rilo Kiley, Nick Cave, Grant Lee Buffalo, but at the end of everything we always fall back on the greats as the wine slips down gently and we begin to mellow out.
On Saturday night, it was Guy Clark’s turn so I thought I might bring you one or two of his classics. He’s been part of my life’s soundtrack since I could walk upright. I met this fella one time at a laid-back gig he was playing in a dingy hotel on the north side of Dublin and I shook his hand: a true gentleman. Once, I heard him play the Róisín Dubh in Galway with his son, Travis, who was a serious pain in the arse, complaining about the sound.
What’s that sound like? he demanded of Guy, halfway through a song.
Guy paused a moment. It sounds like a toaster, he replied.
I met Travis after the show in the men’s toilet, and I said to him,
There’s a great line in one of your dad’s songs.
What’s that? he asked.
Quit whinin’! I said.
Some of my people hadn’t heard of the great man, and so, like eating comfort food, we sat back and let Guy’s wonderful songs revive us.
This is a man who cares about lyrics, a man who crafts a song until it’s right.
For some reason, it’s hard to find him on Youtube and I don’t know why, but not to worry. Let’s have some covers instead. We’ll start off with the Highwaymen doing Desperados Waiting for a Train, a song I first heard Freddie White singing all those years ago.
Now here’s Johnny Cash singing the Last Gunfighter Ballad, but he doesn’t do it nearly the sort of justice Guy does. His version is too bouncy, too country, unlike Guy Clark’s laid-back talking-blues delivery, as he takes us through this gentle comic tragedy, but this version is the best we have right now so let’s enjoy it.
Listen through to the end. Poor old bastard.
Here’s Bobby Bare with Let Him Roll another story that ended in a whorehouse fight. He was a wino, tried and true …
I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I don’t care.
For me, Guy Clark is up there with Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and my friends thought so too.
So that’s the story of how I banished miserable life-draining bastards from my mind and had a great night instead with good friends and good music.
And finally, here’s the man himself playing a wonderful song called the Randall Knife. What a song.
That’s Guy Clark for you.
And finally, thanks to Gianluca in London for this interview with Guy from his radio show: