Original v. Cover — #38 in a Series

Steam Roller Pictures, Images and Photos

O.K.  I’ll admit it.  I’m a sucker for a witty, well-turned phrase.

Pickup lines could potentially fall within this category, most assuredly in the minds of those who speak them, an opinion not necessarily shared by those on the receiving end. But of all the pickup lines witnessed live or on the silver screen, I’m hard pressed to think of one that didn’t seem crude, cliched or trite.

Such solicitations assume many forms, some subtle, vague and indirect but in other cases, are exceedingly clear, to the point and unambiguous. Those adopting the latter approach seemingly prefer to skip past the means, focusing exclusively on the ends, avoiding time-consuming preliminaries and unpredictable outcomes.    

A former roommate of a friend (I’ll call him Russell) during the pre-HIV/AIDS 1970s was graced with the good looks of a matinee idol. The friend related stories of occasions when they would stroll along the street in their small city, a place where young females purportedly outnumbered similar-aged males by a 13 to 1 ratio.  Duly emboldened by such odds, he would approach various females he wished to meet, essentially opening with the question, “Your place or mine?”

Russell’s boldness was met with frequent rejection, some young ladies apparently uncomfortable with saying “yes” when they still didn’t even know his first name.  Remarkably, his efforts were met with frequent enough “success” to continue employing this unorthodox approach.  Since there was no discussion about anything more than a very short-term tryst, there was a curious absence of those complications that can materialize when two people take the time to first become acquainted with each other, a common approach when longer-term considerations are in play.

When the object of one’s intentions insists upon a more deliberate approach, the matter of putting one’s best foot forward sometimes collides head-on with that pesky moral standard of representing oneself honestly. Unfortunately, in some cases, false promises are made that would humble the most shameless of those who sell timeshares, used cars and/or wannabe elected officials.

If a relationship begins under the dark cloud of an elaborately-crafted ruse, the truth eventually reveals itself, in all its homely splendor. Those snake oil salespeople “cursed” with a guilty conscience may find this experience unpleasant, although never to the extent felt by the other. Such a dicey dilemma can be sidestepped by telling the would be love interest the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, beginning with Day One.

If such ominous confessions are believed, the new relationship may never leave the starting gate, however, if the respondent is sufficiently enamored, they may reassure themselves that the would be suitor is being too self-deprecating, is just kidding, or convince themselves that even if this was true in the past, THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT (aka famous last words). To some extent, providing full disclosure may help to mitigate later charges of false representation as well as guilt in the future when everything becomes known to all.  

This week’s selection, if taken literally, pays homage to the rarely adopted approach of airing out the “dirty laundry” from the very beginning, employing clever lyrics to duly warn the recipient of potential pitfalls that lie ahead. Once the bad news is out of the way, if both parties are still together, most of the surprises that follow are on the upside, taking a page from the Wall Street strategy of first offering overly pessimistic earnings projections, only to exceed expectations when the official earnings numbers are released.  

This week’s song represented a departure from the generally serious, contemplative nature of one of our nation’s greatest singer-songwriters, who first enjoyed fame in 1970.  It would later be covered by one of the most successful performers ever, whose career began in the early 1950s, and who routinely included his cover version as part of his concert set list.    

Having exhausted all hints as to the song title/performer, without further ado, the featured song this week is “Steamroller Blues”, written by and first performed by James Taylor in 1970, covered by Elvis Presley in 1973, when it became a #17 hit.

For those who would like to follow along while listening to one of the versions that follow, here are the lyrics…

“Steamroller Blues” by James Taylor

Well, I’m a steamroller, baby

I’m bound to roll all over you

Yes, I’m a steamroller now, baby

I’m bound to roll all over you

I’m gonna inject your soul with some sweet rock ‘n roll

And shoot you full of rhythm and blues

Well, I’m a cement mixer

A churning urn of burning funk

Yes, I’m a cement mixer for you, baby

A churning urn of burning funk

Well, I’m a demolition derby (yeah)

A hefty hunk of steaming junk

Now, I’m a napalm bomb, baby

Just guaranteed to blow your mind

Yeah, I’m a napalm bomb for you, baby

Oh, guaranteed, just guaranteed to blow your mind

And if I can’t have your love for my own (now)

Sweet child, won’t be nothing left behind

It seems how lately, baby

Got a bad case of steamroller blues

Here is James Taylor’s original version, first recorded on his groundbreaking “Sweet Baby James” album in 1971…

Elvis Presley performs live in “Aloha from Hawaii”, a televised broadcast from January 14, 1973, which was seen by more than one billion viewers worldwide, the most watched broadcast by an individual entertainer in television history. He included “Steamroller Blues” in his album, “Aloha From Hawaii: Via Satellite”, released during the following month and released the single in March, 1973, which rose to #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. He included “Steamroller Blues” in his concert repertoire until the time of his death in 1977…

Merry Clayton was a last minute replacement for a concert by the Allman Brothers in the early 1970s when an accident forced them to cancel. Ticketholders received a full refund plus a free concert that included Merry, who included this cover version on her second album. She was a very memorable perfomer.

This video was taken from the “Dirty Dancing Live” tour at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, California in 1988 and although this video is not embeddable, you can see it here. Clayton appears to be holding her own quite well for being forty years of age at the time this was filmed, an age that doesn’t seem all that old to those of us who remember when Taylor first appeared on the scene. Don’t miss this one!

Shelby Lynne displays her vocal talents in 1990.  Nine years later she would win a Grammy Award for Best New Artist.  Please excuse the annoying comments by the host of the show…

Chris Cook performs on the acoustic guitar at Rodi in Gastonia, North Carolina on February 8, 2007…

Pierre Roskam turns in a credible performance that includes some very good instrumental work. Posted on February 27, 2008…

Shawn Klush, Elvis impersonator, is joined by Mr. A. D. Russo (aka James Burton II) on the guitar.  This seems to be a fairly good Elvis impersonation, along with some nice keyboard and guitar work. Posted November 2, 2008…

Bria Kelly, with the Grant Austin Taylor Band, performs at the Driver Days 2008 Festival in Suffolk, Virginia.  They are joined by the legendary Charlie Austin on fiddle, which adds a pleasant, haunting sound.  Worth a look! Posted on November 10, 2008…

Paice, Ashton & Lord perform live with a full band, including a brass section, organ, piano and some nice guitar work. This is also worth a look. Posted on April 19, 2009…

This performance was recorded live at Blockhouse Island in Brockville, Ontario, Canada, and demonstrates the extent to which slide guitar work can add to a song.  Band members:  Bob Londry (vocals, guitar), Mauric Roulette (lead guitar), Pat Johnson (lead & slide guitar), Peter Fodey (bass guitar), and Joe Naszady (drums). Posted July 2, 2009…

Keli’i Kaneali’i was a founding member and lead singer of the Hawaiian super duo “Hapa”. He recorded on their first five highly acclaimed CDs. He has since gone on to a solo career with a CD called “Kaua’i.”  This performance took place on March 10, 2010, at Don Quixote’s in Felton, California. Keli’i was joined by Chino Montero on the guitar and Garret Santos on the bass. This includes some very good guitar work…

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