Sunday, June 22, 2014

Canned Heat -- "On the Road Again"


I didn't have no fairo
Not even no place to go


Those lyrics from Canned Heat's "On the Road Again" pretty much sum up the life of a solitary man on a solitary bike ride, who then writes about that solitary bike ride on his solitary blog.

(If that doesn't make any sense to you, click here to read the previous 2 or 3 lines.  Then it will make at least a teensy-weensy bit of sense to you.  Which is better than making no sense at all . . . right?)

I bet "fairo" is a word you haven't seen before.  Am I right?  Or am I right?

Legendary Delta blues singer Tommy Johnson
"Fairo" (which is sometimes spelled "faro") is a word that appears in a number of old blues songs -- including Delta blues legend Tommy Johnson's "Cool Drink of Water Blues," which he recorded in 1928.  (By the way, Canned Heat took its name from Johnson's "Canned Heat Blues.")  

According to the 1982 tome, Big Road Blues: Tradition and Creativity in Folk Blues, which was written by musicologist David Evans, "fairo" means "sweetheart."  

The etymology of the word is uncertain.  Evans speculates that it might be derived from "fair," or from the Scottish word fere (which means "mate" or "consort"), or from "farrow," which is a term for a young pig -- "as in the expression 'pigmeat' for a young woman." 

(I don't know about you, but I've never called a young woman "pigmeat."  God knows I've had enough trouble over the years attracting young women without referring to them as "pigmeat.")

"On the Road Again" popped up on the Sirius XM radio of my Chevrolet Sonic rental car while I was on Cape Cod last month.

The Shining Sea Bikeway (Falmouth, MA)
It was the day after Memorial Day, and I was on the road again myself.  I was heading to Falmouth to rent a bike and ride the ten-mile-long Shining Sea Bikeway, which runs from North Falmouth to Woods Hole -- which is the departure point for the Steamship Authority's Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket ferries:

Ferry leaving Woods Hole
The Shining Sea Bikeway has plenty of twists and turns to challenge even the most experienced cyclist:


You see some interesting sights along the trail, like this array of brightly-colored Adirondack chairs:


There were several Memorial Day tributes along the trail:


I saw this "War Dog Memorial" near the northern end of the bike trail:


The tribute to military dogs was only part of a much larger artistic display.  Here are photos of a few details of that display, the purpose of which eluded me:





I'm hopeful that some train aficionado will leave a comment explaining the function of this artifact, which was left behind when the old railroad right-of-way was converted to a bike trail:


"On the Road Again" was released in 1968 on the Boogie With Canned Heat album.  It went all the way to #16 on the Billboard "Hot 100."  

I can't imagine a song like this one climbing that high on the charts today.  It's a very odd song -- more performance art than blues record.


I love the late Alan Wilson's falsetto singing, but I'm sure it annoys the hell out of a lot of people.

Here's a video featuring Canned Heat lip-synching to an abbreviated version of "On the Road Again":


Here's the album version of "On the Road Again":



Click below to buy the song from Amazon:




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