Certain Songs #963: The Long Ryders – “Looking For Lewis and Clark”

Album: State of Our Union
Year: 1985

One of the greatest roots-rock songs to come out of the mid-1980s, Sid Griffin’s “Looking For Lewis and Clark” is a pulse-pounding manifesto of identity and defiance.

In just a few stanzas he’s able to tie a key moment in U.S. history together with punk rock, the Reagan Adminstration, international espionage and The Kingsmen all the while worrying about whether Gram Parsons is watching him from heaven.

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Certain Songs #962: The Long Ryders – “I Had A Dream”

Album: Native Sons
Year: 1984

Like their cousins in Green on Red and The Dream Syndicate, The Long Ryders almost instantly shed their early psychedelic Paisley Underground roots and went in a different direction, playing a more straightforward version of country-but-only-somewhat-country rock.

As co-led by Stephen McCarthy and music scholar Sid Griffin (whose book on The Basement Tapes is highly recommended), The Long Ryders recorded a pair of roots rock albums in the mid-1980s — Native Sons and State of Our Union — that I’ve always kinda underrated.

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Certain Songs #961: Lone Justice – “East of Eden”

Album: Lone Justice
Year: 1985

Oh man, there was SO MUCH HYPE around Lone Justice in 1985.

And while it was clear that Maria McKee was absolutely a force of nature and deserved every inch of the voluminous praise heaped upon her, it also seemed like their Jimmy Iovine-produced debut was too slick by half, like he didn’t quite trust their roots rock in the first place.

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Certain Songs #960: Lloyd Cole – “Diminished Ex”

Album: Standards
Year: 2013

And in the 21st century, I lost the plot a bit when it came to Lloyd Cole. He purposely moved away from making rock ‘n’ roll music: as somebody who was always too self-conscious about aging, he thought he was too old to rock, even though “rocking out” was never something anybody ever associated with Lloyd Cole in the first place.

So while I liked some of the stuff he put out in that period, there wasn’t a whole record that I liked from start to finish until 2013’s Standards, which — of course — didn’t come out here until 2014.

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Certain Songs #959: Lloyd Cole – “Vin Ordinaire (alt. version)”

Album: The Negatives
Year: 2000

In 1987, when there was a new Lloyd Cole album that who knows when it was going to be released here (but couldn’t buy as an import because Lloyd Cole was signed to an American record label), all I could do was hope that someone bought it for me in the U.K. and brought it over. But by the year 2000 — the future! — that record might show up on Napster or Usenet or somewhere.

And so it was with The Negatives: I had a copy off of the internet long before I was able to buy the U.S. version of the CD at Amoeba in Berkeley. And when I did, the first thing I noticed is that they’d re-recorded my favorite song, the sadly beautiful “Vin Ordinaire.”

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