Certain Songs #1157: The Miss Alans – “Yellow Gardens”

Album: Smack The Horse
Year: 1990

If Manny believes that “The Shiny Unfeeling” was the song that was instrumental in diverting The Miss Alans away from the dark side, Scott has a slightly different memory: he believes that song was “Yellow Gardens.” He’s mentioned more than once that it was the song he marks as a turning point.

So allow me to split the difference. I have a journal entry from September 30, 1988 (I know), a short time before the meeting that almost broke up the band, which describes my feelings about Manny’s first rehearsal with the band after his motorcycle accident at the beginning of the month.

And while he wore an eyepatch over one eye and a beret to cover his head injuries, in every other aspect, he was well on the road to recovery. Maybe we all really were as indestructible as we thought we were back then (Ron Howard voice: they weren’t). Anyways, one of the things that made me excited was that they were writing a new song — a new rock and roll song (I actually use that phrase) — with a killer Manny riff as the anchor.

So just for the hell of it, let’s say that song was “Yellow Gardens,” which would have marked the beginning of their new direction even if it wasn’t formally recognized as such at the time, but remembered later by Scott as the first one of their new batch of songs.

In any event, those were the two songs that showed the latest direction of The Miss Alans to the world, and for the Smack The Horse album, “Yellow Gardens” was also incredibly important, because it fulfilled my “Second Song on an Album” rule: The second song on any record is the most crucial song on the album, because it lets you know whether or not the opening track was a fluke. “Pilgrimage.” “Bargain.” “She Bangs The Drums.” “Sway.” “Chips Ahoy!.” The list of amazing second songs on great albums is nearly as long as the list of great albums.

With Ron Woods’s kickdrum leading the way, “Yellow Gardens” explodes out of the dying embers of “The Shiny Unfeeling” riding upon a Manny Diez riff that corkscrews around itself as the song gains progressively more and more powerful as it goes on, finally hitting escape velocity as Scott sings in the second verse:

All the love the love the love the love the
In the world
Walk through yellow gardens
Walks through leaves and soil
She walked through yellow gardens
And the leaves that soar to breathe
Just like the one
True love she loved
She loved

After that, “Yellow Gardens” pulls a neat trick on you: it never goes back to its chorus. It drops down into a another kickdrum-driven verse that you assume is going to head straight for the chorus, but instead of that, smashes into a series of drumrolls that are finally able to completely shut the song down, just as Scott sings:

She loved, she loved, she loved, she loved
She loved, she loved, she loved, she loved
She loved, she loved, she loved, she loved
She loved, she loved, she loved, she loved

After the first four “she loved,” Ron and Jay build back, and after the next four, Manny cuts loose with a magnesium fireball of guitar, but nothing can dissuade Scott from repeating “she loved” until the very end, when he switches it up to “Believed, believed, believed, believed.” until Ron slams the song shut with one final drum roll.

“Yellow Gardens” was the biggest rock thing the Miss Alans had yet recorded, an uptempo stomp with slightly psychedelic undertones that never stopped making you guess where it was going next. And, as such, definitely a base camp for where they were going in the future, as well as a helluva way to make sure that you wanted to listen to the rest of Smack The Horse.

“Yellow Gardens”

“Yellow Gardens” Live at the Wild Blue, Fresno 03-30-1991

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