Thursday, August 18, 2011

Little Feat -- "The Fan" (1974)

You were a sweet girl
When you were a cheerleader
But I think you're 
Much better now 

I admit it -- I'm not immune to peer pressure.  When I was in law school, I bought quite a few records that got good reviews in Boston's free weekly papers (the Phoenix and B.A.D., or Boston After Dark) or were featured in the Harvard Co-op's record department or got played on WBCN, the local album-oriented rock ("AOR") station.

Gag me with a spoon
So I ended up getting some really girly albums because everyone else was buying them.  (I did stop short of buying anything by the Pousette-Dart Band, which was based in Cambridge and was very popular locally.  I also resisted the siren's call to buy records by Jonathan Edwards or Livingston Taylor, a couple of other local coffeehouse darlings.  Yuck!)

One of the most popular bands among the Harvard Square intelligentsia in those days was Little Feat.  There are still a lot of Little Feat fans around -- the band was sort of a minor-league Grateful Dead when it came to having hardcore fans.

I picked up two Little Feat albums when I was in law school -- Dixie Chicken and Feats Don't Fail Me Know, which feature an eclectic, syncopated, rootsy sound often described as "New Orleans funk."


The face of Little Feat was Lowell George, a singer-songwriter and guitarist whose first band, The Factory, was formed in 1965.  That band's greatest accomplishment was appearing (under the pseudonym "The Bed Bugs") on the chaotic 1960's sitcom F Troop.  Since F Troop was set in the American Wild West shortly after the end of the Civil War, it is hard to imagine exactly how a rock band would have fit into the plot.  


George later became a member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention for a few months.  When Zappa fired him after just a few months, George hooked up with keyboard player Bill Payne and Little Feat was born.

Why did Zappa give Lowell George the boot?  George later claimed it was the result of him writing the song, "Willin'," which contained some rather mild drug references.

I like to think Zappa kicked him out because "Willin'" is such a bad song.  It's one of those songs about the travails of a working-class guy (here, a truck driver) that always sounds as phony as a three-dollar bill when it comes from a long-haired, drug-ingesting L.A.  musician who probably never did an honest day's work in his life.

And I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari,
Tehachapi to Tonopah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the backroads so I wouldn't get weighed

It was bad enough when George recorded the song with Little Feat.  It was even worse when Linda Ronstadt recorded it for her 1974 album, Heart Like A Wheel, which I also lived to regret purchasing.  ("Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made"?  Linda Ronstadt wants us to believe she's a truck driver?  Puh-leeze.)

Linda Ronstadt
Hey, there are some Linda Ronstadt songs I really like.  But Heart like A Wheel was such a chick record.  I think they gave everyone who bought it a coupon for Midol.

The Little Feat albums I bought had some good songs, but I was not a big fan of most of their material.  I know a lot of my friends who are my age aren't going to agree.  But Little Feat was sort of the musical equivalent of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey -- the people who liked that movie were all high as kites when they saw it, and the same probably held true for most of the people at Little Feat's concerts.

Heaven knows that Lowell George was probably high most of that time.  His heavy drug use -- not to mention his weight gain -- probably contributed to the heart attack that killed him in 1979, when he was 34.

George had bailed out on Little Feat the year before -- Bill Payne wanted to go in a new musical direction, and George thought Payne's jazz/fusion noodling was utter crap.  (+1)   

Here's my favorite Little Feat song, "The Fan."  It is not what I would call "New Orleans funk" -- it's a little more Frank Zappa-like, with an irregular time signature that never really settles down enough for you to get your arms around it.



Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

3 comments:

  1. What an ass you are. This coming from an This coming from an attorney of all people! LOL. You try writing a song like Willin'. Dope.

    "It's one of those songs about the travails of a working-class guy (here, a truck driver) that always sounds as phony as a three-dollar bill when it comes from a long-haired, drug-ingesting L.A. musician who probably never did an honest day's work in his life."

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  2. Sorry -- the song sounds phony to me. I don't believe it for a minute. (By the way, my father drove trucks for 30 years, and I loaded, unloaded, and drove trucks in the summers to help pay for college and law school, so I feel qualified to comment.)

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