Three days after this record was released Lynyrd Skynyrd’s tour plane crashed in Louisiana, killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backing singer Cassie Gaines, as well as the pilot, the co-pilot, and the band’s assistant road-manager.
There’s a famous story that after the plane crashed, the drummer Artimus Pyle walked to a nearby farmhouse to get help. Taking offence to the long-haired hippy walking up to his house, the farmer then shot him in the arm with an air-rifle. Now that’s just unlucky. You survive the plane crash that kills three of your bandmates, you walk several hundred yards to raise help, struggling all the way with broken ribs, and you end up getting shot. It might just be karma though – Pyle is now a registered sex offender, so I guess what goes around comes around (albeit in an inverted way, with the punishment coming decades before the crime).
The inner sleeve of this record has the tour dates for the album listed, and you can see that they only got four dates in before disaster struck. To say that the tour got cut short would be a massive understatement. There’s a story in Stephen Davis’ Walk This Way: The Autobiography Of Aerosmith where one of the Aerosmith crew discusses being offered Skynyrd’s plane as a possible option to tour with. On examining the plane, they found ‘the two pilots smoking and passing an open bottle of Jack Daniel’s in the cockpit. The whole thing stank.’ Needless to say they turned the plane down (angering Aerosmith detractors everywhere), and exactly three months later the Skynyrd tragedy happened.
As well as the morbid tour itinerary on the inner sleeve, my copy of Street Survivors also has the original cover image, a garish photo of the band standing in a row, flanked by flames. This was pulled immediately after the crash, replaced with the non-flaming photo of the band that appears on the back cover of the original sleeve. Thankfully the original cover was reinstated for future re-releases – somebody must have had the common sense to notice that it was the band’s woeful fashion sense that was truly offensive, not the flames.
Street Survivors was Skynyrd’s fifth studio album, and ultimately their last. It’s as solid as their other albums – although it doesn’t get anywhere close to the majesty of their debut (Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd). The band have continued to tour and release records in the decades following the plane crash – rednecks have got to listen to something, right? – but have never come close to being taken serious.
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