Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sweet Cherry Wine, Tommy James and the Shondells (1969)

I've been thinking a lot about anti-war songs lately, and I was reminded of one from the quintessential singles band of the 60s, Tommy James and the Shondells' rollicking and beautiful Sweet Cherry Wine.

In an interview on the American Gold radio program in 1996, Tommy James said, "My philosophy was that rock and roll was supposed to make you move, not make you think. I always had a problem with people who got too serious with rock and roll. If you want to get serious, fine, but don't call it rock and roll because it isn't. It becomes something else. I also thought there was enough ugliness over the TV every night at six o'clock, watching the war, so, that was hard. I really felt that music should hit you in your stomach, not your brain."

And that's kind of what Sweet Cherry Wine did. Produced by James himself, it didn't beat you over the head with anything but the delicious musicality of it, though the lyrics - "We ain't gonna fight/Only God has the right/To decide who's to live and die" - were quite clearly oriented toward questioning the Establishment's immoral war. I can't even tell you all of the instruments he's got in there, but there are a cornucopia of them, including a flute and an organ. And I think some kind of bell.

The explosive intro remains one of my favorites from that time period. Maybe it's because I'm so inspired by Barack Obama right now, but I'm currently on my 10th replay. The song was irresistible then, is irresistible now, as is the notion that the United States of America might soon find its way back from our long national nightmare with a true leader at the helm.

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