Tag Archives: WKQQ

Freed from the Lyrical Labyrinth at Last

24 Aug

Growing up in Eastern Kentucky in the mid-’70s, my constant companion was a small portable Sony AM/FM radio. By the time I turned 11, it was always tuned to the rock-n-roll station in Lexington, WKQQ, then found at 98.6 on the dial. 

I can distinctly recall listening to The Who, The Stones, Elton John, James Taylor, Carole King, Kansas, Fleetwood Mac, and so many others while swinging on our front porch, looking out across the grounds of Boones Creek Baptist Camp. I did this sometimes during rainstorms, when I would kick the swing higher and higher to the beat of Abba, Boston, Queen or Thin Lizzy and watch from my rock-n-roll chariot as the wind shook the trees, who became, in my imagination, large green bears dancing in time to the songs. 

Perhaps in part thanks to me always playing the mono radio’s scratchy music, my parents allowed me to take up residence in an “apartment” on the downstairs floor of our two-story stone home, which was in essence a “parsonage” provided by the collection of 31 Southern Baptist churches for which my father was the associational missionary. My room had its own door to the outside, which brought with it an inherent responsibility to stay inside after dark, which I would not shirk until several years hence.

The tiny radio was not the most sophisticated system on which to listen to the plethora of classic and southern rock titles The Q was hurtling at me over the airwaves. Often it was all but impossible to hear the words of the songs clearly. One night I heard a song with a catchy tune and beat, but the lyrics mystified me. Memory is fuzzy here, but I believe I was either getting ready to leave the house for an event or was about to fall asleep, so I didn’t get to hear the name of the song or the artist, but this is what I thought I heard:

Lay down in the back seat
Crank up the trust and give some
Let’s give it everything we got just one more time


I was only 12 or 13, but I knew what older kids were doing in the back seats of cars on dates. Would a rock group really talk about this behavior overtly in a rock song, especially with a guy asking a girl to “give” him “some”? The question persisted in my mind, though I never heard the song again.

But this essay is more about how the mind works than about sex in the back of a vehicle. Because I can honestly say that on some foggy layer of conscious thought, the first few words of that song and its tune have stayed with me all those years, though the mystery of what was actually sung and who sang it remained unanswered. I never remembered the rest of the chorus, so didn’t have a hook to latch onto. Yet, at the same time, learning the answer was never a pressing issue, so I never actively pursued it—even when a couple of decades later the pervasiveness of the internet conceivably made that possible—even easy. 

I suppose it is every singer–songwriter’s dream, that the chorus of their song would just stick in the mind of the listener like glue. What is so fascinating to me is that the recess of my mind that recorded the memory of those notes and the words I attached to them (though constantly arguing with myself that they couldn’t have been right) stayed as accessible as if I had just heard the song last week or last month—for more than 40 years. Yet it was not something that troubled me enough to actually take any action. It was like an old photograph of a high school friend, a sly smile frozen in time. 

Fast forward to a weekday lunch last week. Now age 56, I no longer carry around a transistor radio, but do often watch rock-n-roll documentaries during the noon hour in order to make myself take a legitimate break while working from home. On a video history of the Allman Brothers, someone must have said the words “lay down a backbeat,” and it was like a switch flipped in my mind and I suddenly saw my exit from the lyrical labyrinth. Of course, I’ve heard the term “backbeat” before, but maybe never in tandem with the words “lay down.” I hit pause, googled those words, and this is what I found: 

So, lay down a back beat
And crank up your trusty Gibson
Let’s give it everything we got just one more time
Lovin’ the life we’re livin’
Playin’ that Georgia rhythm
Nothin’ else ever made me feel so fine

I immediately found and played on YouTube, then Spotify, the tenacious song that had stayed with me all those years, “Georgia Rhythm,” recorded by the Atlanta Rhythm Section! And a more-than-40-year mystery was solved. 

What intrigued me was not that the knowledge of this song in itself was so earthshaking, but that I could so clearly remember the tune and faux words of a song I heard only once when I was a preteen just launching my long-term relationship with music of every kind. Over the years, whenever it entered my consciousness, I always thought, “I wonder if I’ll ever find that song.” Now that I have, it’s like emerging from a labyrinth that was actually a fun and mysterious part of my life. I’d love to tell the guys from the Atlanta Rhythm Section what a lasting impression their song made on a young girl in East Kentucky for whom music has to this day remained a powerful and inspiring creative force.

 

POSTSCRIPT: As you may have noticed, I rarely get the chance to post on this site anymore. If you want to keep up with what I am doing, and help support the Smokies at the same time, consider joining Great Smoky Mountains Association. You’ll receive the print magazine I edit in the mail twice a year and get emails with articles that are posted on our Smokies LIVE virtual magazine. If you can’t spare the $35, just let me know if you want to be on our free email list. 

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