By the time most of you read this, I’ll be on my way to spend the 4th of July holiday with my buddy Dave, at his cabin up on The Lake. Dave and I are best friends dating back to our high school days, and 4th of Julys spent at The Lake are a tradition dating back at least that far.
Over the years, the stories from our summers at The Lake are both numerous and quite memorable. At least the ones we can actually remember. The area is also about as remote and picturesque as it gets — and for any of you reading this who are into stargazing, the blanket effect you get there on a clear night is unmatched anywhere.
Me and Dave have seen some really wild things in the skies at The Lake over the years, including meteors, satellites, and a few things which quite frankly, don’t fit into either of those categories — or any other. Nevermind the fact that the UFO’s were usually seen after draining a few beers.
In years past the 4th of July holiday weekend was usually one of several weekend trips to the rustic cabin, located on a private lake on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula. These days, we don’t make it up there nearly as often, as both times and priorities have a way of changing as you get older.
But the 4th Of July is still a constant. I won’t be spending the entire weekend there this year as I have so many times in the past, as my current economic situation and today’s gas prices pretty much prohibit my doing so. But there is no way I am missing the annual 4th Of July blowout.
To understand this, you have to understand something about The Lake itself.
You see, being that it is located about as far away from the bright lights — and increasingly restrictive laws as pertains to everything from smoking to fireworks — of Seattle as it gets (we’re talking the boonies here), what the city folk would term “lawlessness” pretty much rules the day at The Lake. There aint’ a cop within miles. And on the 4th Of July, what this means is that you will find the locals drinking beer, raising hell, and blowing off all manner of bombs and explosives on the private lake.
They’ve even been known to shoot their guns off on a few occasions.
In short, we’re talking about the party of the year here. This unofficial fireworks display — consisting of illegal contraband mostly obtained at the neighboring Indian reservations — beats the firepower of the two official Seattle celebrations, hands down.
It usually falls upon me to put the official 4th Of July mixtape together. Now of course, I realize that the term “mixtape” is something of a misnomer these days, and perhaps even the CD I’ll actually be making tonight is a bit outdated, at least in today’s MP3 terms.
The idea here however, is to share our music with our neighbors. Sound is something which really carries on a private lake out in the boonies, and if we don’t do it, someone else will. Like that year the jackass across the lake played Jethro Tull’s Aqualung over and over until like 5 A.M. MP3 downloads just aren’t gonna’ cut it here. Nope.
Putting together a 4th Of July mixtape isn’t as easy as it sounds either. The mission at hand — putting together a selection of songs with themes about America, our independence, and the holiday itself — is of course an obvious one. And therein lies the problem. The one thing you don’t want to do is include anything too obvious. The other, is you want to avoid repeating too much from the past thirty or so years we’ve been doing this.
So what do you include regardless of all those past mix tapes? I think Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” goes without saying. That’s the one you use for the grand finale to be timed with the fireworks. In porn terms, this is what you would call the “money shot.”
Other decisions are less easy.
Take songs like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” or John Mellencamp’s “R.O.C.K. In The USA” for example. Both have been done to death, and in the case of Springsteen’s song, it has also been just as often misinterpreted. Fortunately, in the case of Springsteen, there are a wealth of other choices. So this year, I’m going literal and picking “Independence Day” from The River, and in honor of the late, great Danny Federici, “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” from The Wild, The Innocent, And The E Street Shuffle.
As for Mellencamp, “Our Country” might be a good choice, although thanks to those truck ads, that songs meaning has been misconstrued as often as Springsteen’s most famous song has. So I’m going with “Pink Houses.” The locals will certainly recognize and appreciate it’s good old boy patriotism, and the whole “aint that America for you and me” thing.
Speaking of America, there have sure been a lot of great rock songs written about this great land of ours, haven’t there? Two of our very best songwriters, Neil Diamond and Paul Simon, have both written standards with that very title. I’m especially partial to the Yes’ version of the Simon tune.
But speaking of Yes, Jon Anderson once did this dandy of a tune on an album he did with Vangelis in the seventies called “State Of Independence.” The song was later covered by Donna Summer, but I’ve always liked the version Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders did on one of those Moodswings albums, best. So, I’m going with that.
There have also been a number of songs written with the actual title of “4th Of July.” We’ve already covered the one by Springsteen, but did you know that there was also a song by that name by Soundgarden? Or an instrumental with that title by U2 on The Unforgettable Fire? I may just have to include both of those.
“Beautiful Day” is also an obvious choice when it comes to U2. However, I think I’m going to go with “In God’s Country” instead. I love the irony of the way Bono’s lyrics show his unabashed love for everything that is America, while at the same time peeling away the injustices found in those “sad eyes and crooked crosses” found on some of our more remote backroads.
Of course, no 4th of July mixtape would be complete without throwing out a few curveballs. Hopefully the local folk will be too drunk by then to notice. So mine come in the form of “Louie, Louie” as covered by Iggy And The Stooges on their classic unofficial live bootleg Metallic K.O.. Since the Kingsmen’s frat-rock classic is widely regarded by us Washingtonians as our unofficial state song, the patriotic theme also fits. And the Stooges version is as chaotic as it gets, complete with Iggy dodging bottles from the audience after verbally abusing them.
For much the same reason, at the risk of dodging a few bottles of my own from the drunken locals, I’m also going to sneak in a few protest songs. I figure I’d start with the Byrds version of Dylan’s “Chimes Of Freedom,” soothe them with Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy, Mercy Me,” and then fire the killshot with Jefferson Airplane’s incendiary “Volunteers Of America.”
So this by no means constitutes a definitive 4th Of July mixtape, and shouldn’t be regarded as anything of the sort. I know I’ve missed a ton of songs here, but I’ll also betcha’ dollars to donuts they’ve been there in years past. Anyway, by all means feel free to add your selections in the comments section.
Here then, is the official setlist of the 2008 4th of July mixtape. Oh, and happy Independence Day everyone.
Beach Boys “All Summer Long”
Rascals “People Got To Be Free”
John Mellencamp “Grandma’s Theme”
John Mellencamp “Pink Houses”
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers “American Girl”
Bruce Springsteen “Independence Day”
Neil Young “Rockin In The Free World”
The Byrds “Chimes Of Freedom”
Marvin Gaye “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”
Jefferson Airplane “Volunteers (Of America)”
Bruce Springsteen “4th Of July Asbury Park (Sandy)”
Creedence Clearwater Revival “Proud Mary”
Chrissie Hynde “State Of Independence”
Soundgarden “4th Of July”
Iggy And The Stooges “Louie, Louie”
U2 “In God’s Country”
Brian Wilson “Rio Grande Suite”
U2 “4th Of July”
Bob Dylan “Blowin In The Wind”
Richie Havens “Freedom/Motherless Child”
Jimi Hendrix “The Star Spangled Banner”