When my brother and I first talked about starting a music blog, one of the first topics we came up with was what song would you want to hear on your deathbed, one last tune for the road that goes on forever….or stops forever, depending on your own philosophy.
Without delving into questions of spirituality, this is a moment you move towards your whole life and you get one shot to get it right. Only the true lover of music would be remotely concerned with this, as people typically pick music for use at their funerals to reflect their personality or whatever, not for the ‘pre-game’ event to actually expiring. What factors does one put into this decision?
Here are my rules, of much importance in this monumental decision.: First off, this is a strictly selfish decision–so no one else’s input matters in the slightest. You are the one dying so it’s your choice. Second, I feel the decision has to try to encompass all of the music you’ve loved your entire life, from your first cd to trading tunes with the homies in the geriatric ward. Lastly, don’t settle for the first tune you come up with, as again, this may be the last time you hear any music and you don’t want to fuck it up.
Contrary to my third rule, I picked the first song that came to my mind when we had this conversation. (Hey, rules were meant to be broken, even if you make them up yourself). I would choose to hear “Mountain Jam” by the Allman Brothers Band from their highly lauded first post-Duane album Eat a Peach. I have so many reasons for this that it hurts my head to think about it, but I’ll try and work through the pain.
First and foremost, it’s more than thirty-three minutes long. This is the longest song I’ve ever been really into and, if you’re making the final transition, I’d imagine you’d want to have as much time as possible to say goodbye to loved ones, ruminate on your life/existence and so on. Many people have this qualm with so-called “jam bands”: the excessive jamming described by my brother once as “musical masturbation”. In some cases, this is certainly true and in other cases, some people will just never be into improvised music that can go on indefinitely. Life is uncertain and can take a myriad of twists and turns, much like this music that I so love.
Another reason is that it’s easily my favorite instrumental ever and damn near close to my favorite live jam just because of the sheer diversity of ill contributions from all band members, especially Duane’s incendiary guitar work. His solos, the last of which I used to drunkenly refer to as the “sky part ” whilst spinning this record late night in college, are a testament to his style and the cornucorpia of influences he picked up over the course of life and as a session musician at Muscle Shoals.
I’ve read that before Duane’s passing, he listened heavily to Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” among other jazz jams which directly influenced their rendition of “Mountain Jam”. It is musically based on a short piece called “There is a Mountain” by the English pop star Donovan. So, they take the basic structure of a pop song and extrapolate in the jazz tradition to create something wholly new, just as Coltrane did with the old song from The Sound of Music. I’ve always loved the concept of taking something already known and changing it to reflect your own input and thus creating something new. Don’t we all strive to do this in life?
Another reason I love this piece so much is the conglomeration of multiple styles into one free form improvisation that has no genre. They start with a very simple progression and branch out to outer space. Is it blues rock or southern rock? Is it a jam band or a rocking blues band? Is it jazz rock or rock jazz? I’ve always been one to not pay attention to genres and this song gives me a particular thrill as it really can’t be put into any label. I feel it is one of the best meldings of multiple genres into one cohesive piece that has ever been produced. Blues, jazz, English pop, you name it, this tune has got it.
Lastly, I have already used this song, almost always playing the second half of “Mountain Jam” of disc two of Eat a Peach with two of Duane’s best solos ever put down on wax, for moments in of celebration in my life thus far: minor and major things like graduating college, being drunk on a Tuesday night in July whilst grilling steak, and trying out my new speakers with my new turntable.
The song, finally, fits into use for my life’s events and works nicely as a bookend. If only I could go back to my birth and pipe it through the hospital. The nurses would be hippie dancing, the doctors playing air guitar and a brand new me would be stretching out my arms yearning for the ultimate jam.