Garden Party (Rick Nelson song)
|Single by Rick Nelson|
|from the album Garden Party|
|Rick Nelson singles chronology|
"Garden Party" is a 1972 hit song for Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band from the album Garden Party. The song tells the story of Nelson being booed off the stage at Madison Square Garden, seemingly because he was playing his newer, country-tinged music instead of the 1950s-era rock that he had been successful with earlier, and his realization that "you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself".
On October 15, 1971, a Rock 'n Roll Revival concert was given at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The playbill included many greats of the early rock era, including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Bobby Rydell.
Nelson came on stage dressed in the then-current fashion, wearing bell-bottoms and a purple velvet shirt, with his hair hanging down to his shoulders. He started playing his older songs "Hello Mary Lou" and "She Belongs to Me", but then he played The Rolling Stones' "Country Honk" (a country version of their hit song "Honky Tonk Women") and the crowd began to boo. While some reports say that the booing was caused by police action in the back of the audience, Nelson took it personally and left the stage. He watched the rest of the concert backstage and did not reappear on stage for the finale.
But it's all right now, I've learned my lesson well
You see, you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself
One more reference in the lyrics pertains to a particularly mysterious and legendary audience member: "Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan's shoes, wearing his disguise". The Mr. Hughes in question was not Howard Hughes, as is widely believed, but ex-Beatle George Harrison, who was a next-door neighbor and good friend of Nelson's. Harrison used "Hughes" as his traveling alias, and "hid in Dylan's shoes" most likely refers to an album of Bob Dylan covers that Harrison was planning but never recorded. "Wearing his disguise" also suggests that Harrison traveled incognito.
The phrases "Out stepped Johnny B. Goode / Playing guitar, like a-ringing a bell" refer to Chuck Berry and his song, "Johnny B. Goode".
In the song's final verse, Nelson sings, "But if memories were all I sang / I'd rather drive a truck", possibly a reference to Elvis Presley's career before his explosive rise to international superstardom in 1956.
- A garden party - October 15, 1971's Rock 'n Roll Revival concert at Madison Square Garden, New York City
- My old friends - Fellow performers at the Revival concert Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Bobby Rydell
- Yoko - Yoko Ono
- Yoko's walrus - John Lennon
- Mr. Hughes - George Harrison
- (Mr. Hughes) hid in Dylan's shoes - Harrison's planned (but later abandoned) album of Bob Dylan covers
- I said hello to Mary Lou, she belongs to me - Nelson's song "Hello Mary Lou", which he played at the concert; also a reference to "She Belongs to Me," a Bob Dylan song covered by Nelson
- I sang a song about a Honky-Tonk - The Rolling Stones song Country Honk, the song that allegedly caused the booing
- And it was time to leave - Nelson's subsequent departure
- Out stepped Johnny B. Goode - Berry's song Johnny B. Goode
- Playing guitar like a-ringing a bell - The line in Johnny B. Goode "He could play guitar just like a-ringing a bell"
"Garden Party" reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the fall of 1972; it was Nelson's last Top 40 hit on the pop chart. The song also topped the Billboard easy listening chart for two weeks  and reached number 44 on Billboard's Country Singles chart.
In 2012, Adam Young of Owl City covered the song and released it to his SoundCloud and personal blog followers.
On December 31st, 2012, Phish opened their New Year's Eve concert with the song at Madison Square Garden. Phish bassist and singer Mike Gordon, who sang lead on the tune, wore a shirt very reminiscent of the one George Harrison wore on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
- McCloud (TV series) (1972) In Season 3, Episode 1, "The New Mexican Connection" Rick Nelson sings "Garden Party" in a concert sequence. 
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)
- Rick Nelson's biography at his official website
- Straight Dope description of the concert and some people mentioned
- 1973 Rolling Stone review
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics