Tag Archives: Lynyrd Skynyrd

Rocks In The Attic #755: Lynyrd Skynyrd – ‘(Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd)’ (1973)

Skynyrd’RITA#755s tragic story is just unbelievably sad. Five records in, with the band still very much in their ascension, a plane crash rips out the nucleus of the group. They’ve limped on ever since, gaining barely more respect than a tribute band, but the glory years were definitely a long time ago. With guitarist Ed King’s death last October, only one of the seven original band members pictured here, guitarist Gary Rossington, remains alive to tell the tale.

In just four short years, the band managed to accomplish a great deal. And they hit the ground running too. Debut album (Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd) from 1973 is a gem of a hard-rock record. Detractors may pigeon-hole it as dumb, sub-Allman Brothers southern rock, but it’s much more than that.

RITA#755aAside from Ronnie Van Zant’s lyrics, and the triple-guitar threat of King, Rossington and Allen Collins, the real star of the show is Dylan alumn Al Kooper, whose production elevates the band to something else. The phased drum intro to album opener I Ain’t The One sets a groove that flows through the record. The Allman Brothers were never this funky. And what sort of band comes pre-packaged with an anthem like Free Bird on their first release?

Last year’s documentary, If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd, offers a good insight into the short-lived glory days of the band. Pieced together with archival footage and interviews alongside talking heads from surviving members, the film is as heartbreaking as you would expect, particularly when the survivors recount the circumstances involving the plane crash.

The doomed 30-year old Convair CV-240 had previously struggled to complete an earlier flight, and members of the band had joked about the flames they had seen shooting out of its ‘spluttering’ engine. They cautiously stepped aboard the flight from South Carolina to Louisiana on October 20th, 1977. With one engine malfunctioning, and the resulting abnormal fuel consumption, the pilots didn’t notice that the plane was running out of fuel.

RITA#755bAttempting to make an emergency landing, the pilots brought the plane down in a swamp just 300 yards short of the small, rural airstrip they were aiming for. Guitarist Gary Rossington remembers the increasing sound of the plane skimming the treetops for 100 yards, before the plane hit the ground.

Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, his backup-singing sister Cassie Gaines, the band’s road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray all perished in the crash. ‘Crew inattention to fuel supply’ was ultimately determined to be the cause of the crash, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Hit: Free Bird

Hidden Gem: I Ain’t The One

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Rocks In The Attic #357: Neil Young – ‘After The Gold Rush’ (1970)

RITA#357Well I heard mister Young sing about her, well I heard ole Neil put her down, well I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.

There isn’t enough sniping between bands these days. It’s fun and reminds you that everybody’s playing in the same pool. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the level of antagonism on something like How Do You Sleep – John Lennon’s poison pen-letter to Paul McCartney. That’s taking it down to a schoolyard level (and anyway, McCartney’s initial snipe – a photograph of two beetles fucking each other on the rear cover of Ram – was far more tasteful).

But if it’s one band having a bit of a dig at another band, I usually love it. The above lyrics from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama showed that the rednecks weren’t too enamoured of Neil Young’s song on this album. As usual, with these sorts of things, it all got blown out of proportion and became widely known that Neil Young and Skynyrd didn’t get on.

The same is almost true of Steely Dan and the Eagles. First of all, the mighty Dan include the lyric ‘Turn up the Eagles, the neighbours are listening’ in the song Everything You Did, off The Royal Scam. Glenn Frey then returned the compliment by including the line ‘They stab it with their Steely knives’ in Hotel California. Most people think the two bands were at odds, but the Eagles loved Steely Dan and perhaps most importantly Donald Fagen and Walter Becker both had a respect for the Eagles – that’s Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Tim Schmit you can hear singing backing vocals on the Dan’s 1978 single FM (No Static At All).

I was expecting more snipes from Jack White against the Black Key’s Dan Auerbach on 2014’s Lazaretto, but it’s okay. It seems White was more concerned with rubbing his ex-wife’s face in his new-found promiscuity – ‘I got three women, red, blonde, and brunette, it took a digital photograph to pick which one I like’ – on Three Women, his version of Blind Willie McTell’s Blind Women Blues.

Hit: Southern Man

Hidden Gem: Cripple Creek Ferry

Rocks In The Attic #272: Lynyrd Skynyrd – ‘Street Survivors’ (1977)

RITA#272Three 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.

Hit: What’s Your Name

Hidden Gem: You Got That Right

Rocks In The Attic #268: The Black Crowes – ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ (1990)

RITA#268This is a solid – but essentially unremarkable – debut record from Atlanta’s best Rolling Stones / Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band. Their second album, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, would get them a lot more attention, but their whole career can probably be traced down to the very funky cover of Otis Redding’s Hard To Handle that appears on this record.

I’ve never seen The Black Crowes live, and I probably never will now, but I’m not too bothered. I think The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion is a great rock n’ roll record, but they’re one of those bands who have a certain sound – in this instance, Stones and Skynyrd – and they never deviate. As a result, a lot of their material sounds very similar – bluesy guitar riffs, a swampy beat, and soulful lead and backing vocals. The only thing that changes really from song to song is the tempo – and you can really hear this on Sourthern Harmony’s opener Sting Me. The version chosen for the record is a frantic rocker, but there is a much slower take of the song available. The band sound great playing either version, but it makes you think that they could probably do that trick with all their material.

Remedy, from that second album, is their high watermark; the one occasion when all those elements came together perfectly. I love that song, and it’s just a shame that it’s been ever-decreasing circles in the decades since.

Hit: Hard To Handle

Hidden Gem: Sister Luck