Song Musings

What you always wanted to know about that tune

Happy hump day and welcome to another installment of Song Musings where I take a closer look at tunes I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all. Today’s pick falls into the former category and is by an artist I’ve dug since she busted on the scene in 1993 with her successful debut album Tuesday Night Music Club: Everyday Is a Winding Road by Sheryl Crow.

Co-written by Crow, Jeff Trott and Brian McLeod, the song first appeared on her eponymous sophomore album released in September 1996. It also became the record’s second single in November of the same year. While it didn’t match the sales success of lead single If It Makes You Happy, its chart performance was close to its predecessor. Both tunes topped the Canadian charts. In the U.S., Everyday Is a Winding Road climbed to no. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. It did best on the Pop Airplay chart where it peaked at no. 4. Elsewhere, it hit the top 20s in the UK (no. 12), Japan (no. 20) and Iceland (no. 14).

Everyday Is a Winding Road was one of five singles that helped drive the success of Crow’s second album. From a charts perspective, the record did best in Switzerland, the UK, the U.S., Sweden, Austria and Belgium where it reached no. 3, no.5, no. 6, no. 8, no. 8 and no. 10, respectively. It also placed in the top 20 in Canada (no. 12), Australia (no. 12), Germany (no. 17) and Norway (no. 20). Sheryl Crow has sold the most copies in the U.S. and the UK where it has been certified 3X Platinum.

When releasing her 11th album Threads in August 2019, which I reviewed here at the time, Crow said this was her last such full-length studio effort. She cited changing habits, especially among young listeners who prefer putting together playlists with songs by their favorite artists rather than listening to entire albums. At the same time, she reassured fans she wasn’t planning to retire, and so far, there are indeed no signs Crow is calling it quits altogether. Going back to Everyday Is a Winding Road, here’s a nice live performance of the tune from 2010 on the then-American TV show Late Show with David Letterman.

Following is some additional background on the tune from Songfacts:

This bit of fortune cookie wisdom was written by Sheryl Crow along with her collaborators Jeff Trott and Brian MacLeod. The trio wasn’t thrilled with it when they wrote the song, so they were happy to give it up for the 1996 film Phenomenon, starring John Travolta.

Once they started stripping it down at the request of the movie’s music supervisor, something great began to emerge. Trott told Songfacts: “We realized by pulling back all that stuff that, wow there actually is a really good song in there, and it’s just being covered with layer, upon layer, of instruments.”

The song debuted in the movie, but didn’t appear on the soundtrack. The film was released in July 1996 and the song was included on Crow’s self-titled sophomore album, which was issued in September…

…Crowded House lead singer Neil Finn provided backing vocals. The Australian band’s former drummer, Paul Hester, was the inspiration for the song. Crow explained before a Top of the Pops performance in 2003: “He inspired the song because he was so… he was such a character and so full of life, and it’s basically about the search for the meaning of life.”

…Crow elaborated on the song’s theme in an interview with CMT: “‘Everyday is a Winding Road’ started out as kind of a road song, and it really wound up being about being in the moment and not always looking to the next moment and analyzing things. As I look at this record, stepping away from it, I realize thematically a lot of it is about levity, finding levity in life and balance and trying to figure out how to make all things work simultaneously without grand disruption. That’s kind of what the song is about. It’s about jumping in a truck with a guy who just lives life every minute, by the minute. Every once in a while, I have to catch myself and remind myself that life is right now. It’s not two minutes from now.”

This was nominated for Record of the Year at the 1998 Grammy Awards, but it lost to Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home.”

This was also featured in the 2000 biographical drama Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts.

Prince covered this on his 1999 album, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

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What I’ve Been Listening to: John Hiatt/Perfectly Good Guitar

John Hiatt is a great artist I’ve been aware of for many years. I’m glad his excellent recent collaboration album with Jerry Douglas, Leftover Feelings, brought the acclaimed singer-songwriter back on my radar screen. It finally made me start exploring some of Hiatt’s other albums in their entirety, including Perfectly Good Guitar, his 11th studio release that appeared in September 1993. I’m sure Hiatt aficionados are well aware of it; if you’re not and dig heartland and roots-oriented rock, you’re in for a treat.

Hiatt who was born in Indianapolis had a difficult childhood. After the death of his older brother and his father, he used watching IndyCar races and listening to music by the likes of Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and blues artists as escape mechanisms. At the age of 11, Hiatt learned to play guitar and started his music career as a teenager in Indianapolis, playing local venues with the a variety of bands.

When he was 18, Hiatt moved to Nashville, Tenn. where he landed a job as a songwriter for the Tree-Music Publishing Company. He also continued local performances, both solo and with a band called White Duck. Hiatt got his break in June 1974 when Three Dog Night turned his song Sure As I’m Sitting Here into a top 40 hit. His original version he had released as a single in February that year had gone nowhere.

In July 1973, Hiatt recorded his debut album Hangin Around The Observatory, which came out the following year. While it received favorable reviews, the album was a commercial failure. When the same thing happened with his sophomore release Overcoats, his label Epic Records was quick to drop him. Meanwhile, other artists kept covering Hiatt’s songs. Unfortunately, the story pretty much kept repeating itself until Bring the Family from May 1987, finally giving Hiatt his first album to make the Billboard 200, reaching no. 107.

Bring the Family featured the gems Thing Called Love and Have a Little Faith in Me, which became hits for Bonnie Raitt and Joe Cocker, respectively. Hiatt’s songs have also been covered by an impressive and diverse array of other artists like B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez, Linda Ronstadt, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Willy DeVille, and the list goes on and on.

To date, Hiatt has released 28 albums, including two live records and two compilations. In 1991, he also formed the short-lived group Little Village together with Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner. Previously, Hiatt had worked with each of the three artists on Bring the Family. After issuing a self-titled album in February 1992 and a short supporting tour the group disbanded.

Let’s get to some music from Perfectly Good Guitar. Here’s the great opener Something Wild. Like all other tracks except one, the tune was solely written by Hiatt. I dig the nice driving drum part by Brian McLeod. With the recent death of Charlie Watts, perhaps it’s not surprising that Satisfaction came to mind right away!

The title track perfectly captures my sentiments when I see footage of Pete Townshend trashing his guitar at the end of a Who gig; or Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire for that matter. Oh, it breaks my heart to see those stars/ Smashing a perfectly good guitar/I don’t know who they think they are/Smashing a perfectly good guitar…Yes, of course, it was all for show and I believe Townshend at least glued some of his smashed guitars back together. And while I certainly don’t support jail sentences for guitar-smashing, destroying instruments still rubs me the wrong way! Instead, make some kid happy and give it to them! Who knows, you might even change their trajectory!

Another nice track is Buffalo River Home. I really like the guitar work on that tune.

Another track that got my attention, primarily because of the drum part, is Blue Telescope. McLeod’s drum work reminds me a bit of Steve Gadd’s action on Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. I have no idea whether Gadd’s unique drum part served as an inspiration here. Regardless, it sure as heck sounds cool to me!

The last track I’d like to call out is Old Habits, which has a great bluesy vibe. It’s the one song on the album Hiatt co-wrote with somebody else: Female singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman. Similar to Hiatt, it appears her songs have been covered by many other artists, such as Joe Cocker, Jimmy Buffett, Emmylou Harris, Irma Thomas and Ronnie Milsap.

Before wrapping up this post, I’d to acknowledge the other fine musicians on this great album. In addition to Hiatt (guitar, vocals, piano, organ) and MacLeod (drums, percussion), they include Michael Ward (guitar), Ravi Oli (electric sitar; Ravi Oli is a pseudonym of David Immerglück), Dennis Locorriere (harmony vocals) and John Pierce (bass guitar).

Perfectly Good Guitar was Hiatt’s last studio album with A&M Records. Once again, another great record failed to meet the commercial expectations of the label, though ironically, it became Hiatt’s most successful record on the U.S. mainstream charts to date, peaking at no. 47 on the Billboard 200. Hiatt subsequently signed with Capitol Records, which released his next two studio albums, including the Grammy-nominated Walk On from October 1995.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube