Johnny Rivers’ Golden Hits from a Golden Age

A lot of the music that we consider classic as we age were the songs that made up the soundtracks to our childhood. These were the songs our parents forced us to listen to in the car, or the songs Grandma might play while baking some fresh chocolate pie. We let the music fade into the background. Sometimes to rediscover it later, but sometimes only to be lost in the quiet recesses of our minds. That’s where I come in. I have taken it upon myself to drudge that nostalgic bullshit back up, and shove it straight down your throat with a wide spoon, and just to be clear… I want you to know I’m smiling a mile wide while I’m doing it. I promise you will thank me later.

The first classic I truly believe deserves to be made new again is an album I have never completely put away since I came into possession of it. I’m not sure how it came to be that I owned such a prize. Maybe my parents’ divorce? Maybe someone forgot it, and they are on the other side of the universe weeping. However it happened I am blessed, and every chance I get I break out the beautiful voice of Johnny Rivers. Now I’m not going to pretend to be a super fan. I can’t vouch for this gentleman’s entire career, but if it’s anything like Johnny Rivers’ Golden Hits maybe I could fall in love.

DSC_4422 The album is composed of 11 songs beginnning with “Memphis” which is just straight up unbelievable. My feet tap instantly every time. Whether I’m standing or not I start hard-core grooving to those old-time beats, and heaven help me if I’m in a car ’cause I’m sure I’d be headed straight for Memphis myself. Rivers crooning out of my speakers for his long-lost Marie makes me think of how we take our loved ones for granted nowadays. It’s almost unimaginable to think of a time when you could not just text or video chat a loved one in the a blink of an eye. Why then does the ease of access seem to make it even easier to put it off ’til later. A cold hard drive will never replace the warmth of human touch. Don’t rely on technology, and don’t take your loved ones for granted all taught by Johnny Rivers himself by then end of track one. By the time “Mabellene” comes on I’m up bouncing around. Unfortunately, for some reason this leads to cleaning the house as per usual. I’m not sure why listening to Johnny Rivers makes me want to clean. Maybe it’s just because “Mabellene” is an energetic fun filled playhouse of a song, or maybe when Chuck Berry wrote it in the 50’s he was in league with the government to create secret subliminal messaging in song lyrics to keep the women sedated? Is “Secret Agent Man” on side B, really trying to tell us something? Nevertheless, nothing makes these hard wood floors shine like a Swiffer with the pressure of hips that are swaying to the possibility of Mabellene not being true. The third song, “Midnight Special“, is phenomenal, but I can’t really say a lot about it because honestly, my mind wanders immediately. Suddenly I’m driving in the Twilight Zone with Dan Aykroyd riding shotgun, and I’m yelling at Jon Lithgow not to get into that ambulance because there really WAS something on the wing of the plane! I come back around to the present as “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” begins with its hippy dippy intro. This song stops my cleaning process, and throws me into fits of confusion. This is probably the one song on the album I could do without. I mean really dude, are you really gonna use that thinly veiled loss of virginity metaphor, and then a few verses later start griping because the girls got married? Make up your mind fella. “John Lee Hooker” comes on, and breaks my train of thought pulling me back into Golden Hits goodness. “Seventh Son” takes over, and my mind conjures an image of a magical Fonzie-like creature just like it always does when I listen to this song. One day I simply MUST meet this magical “Seventh Son”.

Secret Agent Man” begins side B with a fury. This song takes me back to childhood more than any of the others I think. I’m not sure what age I was when I finally discovered he was saying “Secret Agent Man” and not “Secret Asian Man”. I mean, I guess I thought he was just really fond of Bruce Lee or something. The song made sooo much more sense after I discovered the truth, but I do still kinda think Asian men are a little more witty and mysterious than others. “Muddy Waters” comes on, and it brings me right back to present day where my broom simultaneously becomes my dance partner and my guitar. I think maybe I should give up on this cleaning thing at this point. “Mountain of Love” pours outta the radio as I finish up, and finally sit down to write all these juicy bits from outta my head. I’m sure we can all relate some point in our lives to this track, and if you’re like me you had to sing a song like this one at the top of your lungs to try to get the hurt outta your heart and your mind through your mouth. The second to last song is a cover mashup between “La Bamba” and “Twist and Shout”, and Rivers does a magnificent job performing and marrying this pair in harmony. The final hit in this golden array is “It Wouldn’t Happen With Me“. Johnny spends his final album moments assuring us that he’s not like those other guys. He tells us about all the other traveling men, and how he’s gonna be there for us to hug and squeeze. Johnny sings of his loyalty with that not so subtle little hint of jealousy that all the girls just swoon for, and I, like the rest, just can’t wait to go back for more of that unhealthy controlling relationship.

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2 replies »

  1. This Lp came at a Crucial time when Rivers was getting tired of His Little Funky Trio sound,and wanted to branch out into a more broader spectrum,so,gradually,He’d started to evolve,first Growing a Beard,then Changing His Style…the end result was “Changes” his next Lp,and his Only #1 Hit ever,”Poor Side Of Town”…BTW,this was only Volume 1,as “A Touch Of Gold” would be the second one,issued in 1969.


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