One of the things about this project is how it’s reminded me that you hear songs differently as your context for hearing those songs changes. I mean, duh.
But because of the gap between when I heard Gordon Lightfoot’s massive hit single “Sundown” in its initial run and hearing it again as a middle-aged man is so massive, it’s almost like a totally different song to me.
Back in 1974 “Sundown” was both irresistible and irritating. Irresistible in that that was played on 13 KYNO all of the damn time, and I couldn’t help but sing along in my head with the chorus. Irritating because I was already moving beyond Top 40 and beginning to develop my identity as a rock ‘n’ roll guy, and liking “Sundown” felt, well, counterproductive.
Especially when one its two predecessors the #1 song on Billboard’s Hot 100 was my newly-minted All-Time Favorite Song, “Band on The Run,” (which damn straight we will get to in a year or two)
So I ignored “Sundown” for years. Hell, maybe decades. It was just another song from my fondly-remembered AM radio days, like its immediate predecessor, “Billy Don’t Be a Hero.”
Then, at some point in the past decade or so, I heard “Sundown” as an adult, and was floored by its swampy ambience.
Driven by a big rolling bassline and a low-key chiming 12-string acoustic, “Sundown” is a master class in how to construct a 1970s folk-rock song. Add one part fucksong — apparently written for the woman who later killed John Belushi — and two parts lead guitar that could have come from a later CCR album, and you’ve got a song that has aged tremendously well.
That lead guitar, by Lightfoot’s long-time guitarist Terry Clements (so the internet tells me) is the key. He takes two solos, one in the middle to break the song up, and another one at the end to to bring the song home.
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