I always think of my distaste for the classic rock radio format when I hear songs such as The Letter. It’s one of the 50 or so songs to which the golden age of rock has been boiled down. The machine rolls drearily on. I bet some of the artists don’t like it either, except for the money. Others probably are fine with it.
The Rolling Stones no doubt are. The band is dusting off the old stuff once again. It’s fine–if they want to do it and people want to pay, God bless them all–but it’s a bit bizarre. We’ve gone from protests to prostates.
All this comes to mind when I really listen to this old stuff and realize, once again, how brilliant a lot of it is. The problem is that the Mad Dogs and Englishmen gang — led by the genius Leon Russell — was just a bunch of kids when they did this.
It’s been a long time. The song Mad Dogs and Englishmen was written by Noel Coward for the 1931 musical The Third Little Show. The Cocker album was released in 1970. In other words, four more years have elapsed between the album and today than between the writing of the song and the album. Rock and roll used to be about being young. Now it’s about getting old. It’s nobody’s fault, but it is a good reason to move on.
Check out the Noel Coward song, which was a satire about British imperialism. The full phase is that only “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”
Above is Dave Mason’s Feelin’ Alright and below is The Letter, which was written by Wayne Carson Thompson and initially recorded by The Box Tops.