Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Lynyrd Skynyrd "Sweet Home Alabama"

ARTIST: Lynyrd Skynyrd
OVERPLAYED SONG: "Sweet Home Alabama"
ORIGINAL SOURCE: Second Helping LP, MCA, 1975
OTHER SOURCES: Any of the many compilations of Skynyrd material released by MCA/Geffen since 1980.

Let's be honest. As decent a band they were, Lynyrd Skynyrd were basically a mid-sized cult act at best, with at least 95% of their following based below the Mason-Dixon line, until a private plane they were riding in went down, killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines.(*) Ironically, three days prior to their plane crash, they had released their Street Survivors album.

Their only actual hit single, "Sweet Home Alabama" (most of their other better known songs are primarily album tracks anthologized time and time again by MCA [now Geffen] Records), was concieved as a response to the Neil Young song "Southern Man". Unfortunately for Lynyrd Skynyrd, their big-upping of Alabama - in spite of the fact that they did some early recordings at the state's legendary (and as of this writing, recently shuttered) Muscle Shoals Recording Studio - makes little sense when you consider the fact that the band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida. Perhaps they were too busy wanting to attack Neil Young to consider this lapse in geography? (For what it's worth, - and providing yet another irony in Skynyrd history - Young responded by offering his songs "Sedan Delivery" and "Powderfinger" to the group for a future album. Fortunately, the group turned them down, and Young proceeded to play them the way they are meant to be played, with Crazy Horse, on the Rust Never Sleeps album [Reprise, 1978])

Since their plane crash, the once semi-obscure group immediately became overrated by death, and for the next 25 years plus, many a working cover band or struggling/new rock group - especially on the Northern side of the Mason-Dixon Line - is tormented by some fat fuck with a rebel flag T-shirt and a longneck in his paw, hollering "Hey! Play some fuckin' Skynyrd!" every time the band launches into a song that sounds nothing like this tune, "Free Bird", or "Gimmie Three Steps" (two other equally overplayed Skynryd songs).

If you must play a Skynyrd song, scan one of the many compilations that MCA/Geffen/Universal has released since the band's initial disbanding and subsequent reunion for a more appropriate number other than "Sweet Home" or the other aforementioned songs. We'd recommend their pro-gun-control (!) anthem "Saturday Night Special" or the horn-driven tour-spiel "What's Your Name?".

If you want to avoid Skynyrd tunes entirely - and I don't blame you - Neil Young's "Southern Man", the song that "inspired" "Sweet Home" in the first place, would be a nice comeback to the fat drunken heckler who keeps calling for the Ronnie Van Zandt imitation that you never did in the first place.


At 8:39 PM, Blogger Thlayli said...

I'd suggest "Call Me The Breeze" -- hard to go wrong with a twelve-bar blues.

At 11:31 AM, Blogger The Spoiler said...

I believe, if I know my southern boogie blues..."Call Me The Breeze" is a cover-song, originally written/performed by JJ Cale. Cale also did "Cocaine" and "After Midnight", made famous by Eric Clapton. Apparently still making music....check him out.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Max Sparber said...

"In Birmingham they love the governor
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you? "

What the hell does this even mean? Hooray for segregationist then-governor George Wallace? Their decision to respond to Neil Young's searing indictment of Sourtern racism is to blast with him pro-Wallace, who cares about Nixon babbling?

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Cheddar said...


Be careful in that criticism of Skynyrd -- it is at very least ambiguous about what the band intended to say. After the first line you quote, the band sings, "Boo, boo, boo," which you didn't quote. I can't say with utmost certainty but I think it's possible that they were booing the love of the governor.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger BOHICA said...

skynyrd had SO many great songs, but they always choose to overplay this one...

At 12:26 PM, Blogger NWJR said...

Brilliance. Freakin' brilliance.

At 9:18 PM, Blogger Dan Blyndspot said...


Your opinion I suppose.

Do you play in a cover band? I suspect you are just a cover band hating someone. I do play in a cover band.

Guess what? It isnt the cover bands you need to convince to quit playing your hated tunes, but the people who spend thousands of dollars a night in every bar accross America, who stampede the dance floor when these songs are played.

When these songs quit selling booze we will quit playing them.

A more appropriate name for the blog may be "stop dancing to these songs" or "quit drinking when cover bands play these songs".

Some of us hate playing these songs but we all do LOVE the reaction they get. A trade off I suppose.

Are we selling out? Maybe, maybe not. Yes, we get paid handsomely (at least the more talented bands do). We also love playing to energized, enthusiastic party goers who, unfortunately WILL dance to Sweet Home, Sedated (we dont play this one, we play Blitzkrieg Bop, Brown Eyed Girl, etc.

You have your opinion, I have mine.

At 11:27 PM, Blogger B3Fiend said...

Just try NOT to play these lame tunes. You try NOT to play them, and every flippin' time some whiney chicks come up to the stage and won't shut up until you relent and puke out Brown-eyed-girl for the 10,000th time.

I've had Brown-eye, Sweet Home Alabama, etc off of the set list for 10 years, but end up playing them almost every week thanks to the usual obnoxious 30-something whiney chicks who stand in front of the stage and will never shut the hell up until you play it. (you know the types...)

These lame tunes are also guaranteed life-saver and dance-floor filler when you end up booked in some redneck roadhouse, and either play them or risk getting your ass kicked by some drunk dirtbag for not making his trailer-trash wife happy.

At 11:55 PM, Blogger drmcconnell said...

["Lynyrd Skynyrd were basically a mid-sized cult act at best, with at least 95% of their following based below the Mason-Dixon line"]

How old are you? Know your facts before you write. Lynyrd Skynyrd has something like 25 Platinum and Multi-Platinum records and 25 Gold records and videos. Frankly I lost count, but you get the idea. What cult band has sales like this?

Your argument would be a lot stronger if you knew what you were talking about

At 7:27 PM, Blogger Talcum X said...

I couldn't agree more! But then again when Kid Rock came out with that abortion of a sampling of it I did find myself craving the original once again.


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