Sunday, August 02, 2009

Rick Nelson: Garden Party

Two weeks ago I went to prison and then chose Folsom Prison Blues. Today I have been to a garden party, so...

Ricky Nelson was a teen heart throb in the early days of American rock and roll - you will know Hello Mary Lou at least - with an enormous number of hit singles there. The song Garden Party arose from his efforts to explore new directions in his music.

In 1972, by which time he had become Rick Nelson (much as this blog's hero Stevie Winwood became Steve Winwood) and was playing a country-tinged, West Coast style of music. As Wikipedia tells it:
On October 15, 1971, a Rock 'n Roll Revival concert was given at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The playbill included many greats of the early rock era, including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Bobby Rydell.
Nelson came on stage dressed in the then-current fashion, wearing bell-bottoms and a purple velvet shirt, with his hair hanging down to his shoulders. He started playing his older songs "Hello Mary Lou" and "She Belongs to Me", but then he played The Rolling Stones' "Country Honk" (a country version of their hit song "Honky Tonk Women") and the crowd began to boo.
While some reports say that the booing was caused by police action in the back of the audience, Nelson took it personally and left the stage. He watched the rest of the concert backstage and did not take his final bow for the finale.
Out of this incident came a lyric which, though I suppose it could also serve as a defence of selfishness, is as near to wisdom as you will ever get in a pop song:
But it's all right now,
I've learned my lesson well.
See, you can't please everyone,
So you've got to please yourself.
I remember this song being played on Radio 1 in the early 1970s, but I would not have been able to tell you who the writer and singer was until I looked it up recently. There is a video from 1972 on Youtube, but it is cut short after a couple of minutes. So the version here comes from 1985, the last year of Nelson's life. As on the original version, Nelson is singing with the Stone Canyon Band.

He may have succeeded as reinventing himself, but sadly Nelson was to die the death of a 1950s' teen idol. He was killed in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1985.

1 comment:

Paul Walter said...

Thank you for this Jonathan. He was a child star, appearing aged nine in his parents own radio show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett. His sons, Matthew, Gunnar and Sam have been known to sing "Garden Party" themselves in tribute to their father. A sad end - caused by a defective cabin heater apparently.