Tuesday, December 9, 2008 at 8:25 a.m.
Bad Luck City's amazing 2008 album, Adelaide,
opens with an absolutely stunning cover of the Lee Hazlewood song, "The Night Before," from his 1970 hard-to-find album, Cowboy in Sweden.
Though it's surprising for a unique and creative outfit like Bad Luck City to introduce itself with someone else's song, the reinterpretation and arrangement is entirely original. The band takes elements from the original recording and filters them through the shadowy and slightly sinister Bad Luck City esthetic, turning them into whispers that only hint at their origins. Meanwhile, Dameon Merkl imbibes Hazlewood's words and phrasing like whiskey, and then murmurs them back with drunken, world-weary torpor.
When I first heard this recording, I knew very little about Lee Hazlewood. Sure, we all know Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots." Aside from that, I had taken note of the songwriter's final album, Cake or Death, because it was named after a brilliant Eddie Izzard stand-up bit, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I decided to set off in search of Hazlewood's original recording of "The Night Before."
Ten years ago, this would have amounted to a quest for sunken treasure. I would have marched off to one of my favorite used record stores to rummage through bins. Dust would have risen as I flipped past Hall & Oates, David Hasselhoff and misfiled Hank Williams records. I would have glanced out of the corner of my eye at the girl with the jet-black pigtails and studded belt as she shuffled disconsolately through the Cure's discography. A surly clerk would have pointedly ignored me as I sneezed the dust out of my sinuses. I might end up finding Cowboy in Sweden, or, defeated, I'd settle for a scratched Hawkwind record, pay my 25 cents and be on my way.
Today, of course, that romantic and often futile quest is all but gone. With just a few minutes and some creative searching, I found and acquired the record on the internet and had it pouring out of iTunes. No flipping, no Hasselhoff, no jet-black pigtails, no surly clerk, no sneezing, no Hawkwind - just nearly instant gratification.
And I was truly gratified. The whole album is absolutely beautiful, poignant and most definitely of its time, and I'm delighted to have been introduced to it by one of Denver's most entertaining acts.
But some might say there's a loss in the instant gratification and the lack of dust that was involved in my quest for this record. And maybe there is. There's a slim chance I would have talked to the girl with the jet-black pigtails, and there's an even slimmer chance she would have spoken back. There's also a slim chance that the serendipitous purchase of the Hawkwind record would have really opened some doors for me. There's even a chance that I would have found 20 bucks on the ground on my way to the record store.
Nonetheless, here we are in our modern age and I, for one, am grateful for the instant gratification. I can't imagine how I'd do my job here without the treasure chest that is the internet, and I love the fact that I can hear almost any song I crave within minutes. I probably wouldn't have found that Lee Hazlewood record in the real world for years.
And as for the girl with the jet-black pigtails? Well, I'll bet I can find her on MySpace.