On the Road Again (Canned Heat song)

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"On the Road Again"
Single by Canned Heat
from the album Boogie with Canned Heat
B-side "Boogie Music"
Released April 24, 1968 (1968-04-24)
Format 7" 45 rpm record
Recorded Liberty Studios, Los Angeles
September 6, 1967
Genre Blues rock,[1] psychedelic rock[1]
Length 3:28 (single version)
5:01 (album version)
Label Liberty (no. 56038)
Writer(s) Floyd Jones, Alan Wilson
Producer(s) Cal Carter
Canned Heat singles chronology
"Evil Woman"
(1967)
"On the Road Again"
(1968)
"Going Up the Country"
(1968)

"On the Road Again" is a song recorded by the American blues-rock group Canned Heat in 1967. A driving blues-rock boogie,[2] it was adapted from earlier blues songs and includes mid-1960s psychedelic rock elements. Unlike most of Canned Heat's songs from the period, second guitarist and harmonica player Alan Wilson provides the distinctive falsetto vocal. "On the Road Again" first appeared on their second album, Boogie with Canned Heat, in January 1968; when an edited version was released as a single in April 1968, "On the Road Again" became Canned Heat's first record chart hit and one of their best-known songs.

Earlier songs[edit]

With his record company's encouragement, Chicago blues musician Floyd Jones recorded a song titled "On the Road Again" in 1953 (JOB 1013). It was a remake of his successful 1951 song "Dark Road" (JOB 1001). Both songs are based on Mississippi Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson's 1928 song "Big Road Blues" (Victor 21409) (Canned Heat took their name from Johnson's 1928 song "Canned Heat Blues"[3]). Johnson's lyrics include: "Well I ain't goin' down that big road by myself ... If I don't carry you gonna carry somebody else". Jones "reshaped Tommy Johnson's verses into an eerie evocation of the Delta".[4] In "Dark Road" he added:

Whoaa well my mother died and left me
Ohh when I was quite young, when I was quite young ...
Said Lord have mercy ooo, on my wicked son

And in "On the Road Again" he added:

Whoaa I had to travel, whoaa in the rain and snow in the rain and snow
My baby hadn't quite me ooo (2×)
Have no place to go

Both songs share a "hypnotic one-chord drone piece"-arrangement that one-time Floyd Jones musical partner Howlin' Wolf used for his "Crying at Daybreak"/"Smokestack Lightning".[4][5]

Recording and composition[edit]

"On the Road Again" was among the first songs Canned Heat recorded as demos in April 1967 at the RCA Studios in Chicago[6] with original drummer Frank Cook. At over seven minutes in length, it has the basic elements the later album version, but is two minutes longer with more harmonica and guitar soloing.[7]

During the recording for their second album, Canned Heat recorded "On the Road Again" with new drummer Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra. The session took place September 6, 1967 at the Liberty Records studio in Los Angeles. Alan Wilson used verses from Floyd Jones' "On the Road Again" and "Dark Road" and added some lines of his own:

Well I'm so tired of cryin' but I'm out on the road again, I'm on the road again (2×)
I ain't got no woman just to call my special friend ...

For the instrumental accompaniment, Canned Heat uses a "basic E/G/A blues chord pattern"[8] or "one-chord boogie riff" adapted from John Lee Hooker's 1949 hit "Boogie Chillen'".[9] Expanding on Jones' hypnotic drone, Wilson used an Eastern string instrument called a tambura to give the song a psychedelic feel. Although Bob Hite was the group's primary vocalist, "On the Road" features Wilson as the singer, "utilizing his best Skip James-inspired falsetto vocal".[8][10] Wilson also provides the harmonica parts.[11]

Releases and charts[edit]

"On the Road Again" was included on Canned Heat's second album, Boogie with Canned Heat, released January 21, 1968 by Liberty Records. After receiving strong response from airplay on American "underground" FM radio, Liberty issued the song as a single on April 24, 1968.[12] To make the song more Top-40 AM radio-friendly, Liberty edited it from the original length of 4:55 to a 3:33 single version. It became Canned Heat's first single to appear in the record charts.[8]

Chart (1968–1969) Peak
position
Australian Go-Set Top 40[13] 9
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[14] 5
Canadian RPM Top Singles[15] 8
France (SNEP)[16] 7
Germany (Media Control Charts)[17] 13
Irish Singles Chart[18] 14
Italy (FIMI)[19] 23
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[20] 5
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[21] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[22] 3
UK (Official Charts Company)[23] 8
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[24] 16

On the singles, Floyd Jones and Alan Wilson are listed as the composers, while the album credits J.O.B. Records' (who issued Jones' singles) part-owner Jim Oden/James Burke Oden aka St. Louis Jimmy Oden. "On the Road Again" appears on several Canned Heat compilation albums, including Let's Work Together: The Best of Canned Heat (1989) and Uncanned! The Best of Canned Heat (1994).

Influence[edit]

Although songs inspired by John Lee Hooker's "Detroit-era boogie"[2] had been recorded over the years by a variety of blues musicians, Canned Heat's "On the Road Again" popularized the guitar-boogie or E/G/A riff in the rock world.[5] As a result, "it's been a standard rock and roll pattern ever since".[5] Canned Heat used it frequently as the starting point for several of their extended jam songs, including the 40 minute live opus "Refried Boogie (Part I & II)" from their late 1968 Living the Blues album. When Hooker recorded an updated version of "Boogie Chillen'", titled "Boogie Chillen No. 2", with the group in 1970 for Hooker 'n Heat, it had come full circle.[25]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b David Evans (2005). Penguin, ed. The NPR Curious Listener's Guide To Blues. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-399-53072-2.  "On the Road Again, Canned Heat: This song (... ) is psychedelic blues-rock that benefits from studio overdubbing technology."
  2. ^ a b Gioia 2008, pp. 262–263.
  3. ^ Koda 1996, p. 142.
  4. ^ a b Rowe 1991, p. 2.
  5. ^ a b c Palmer 1981, p. 231.
  6. ^ Russo 1994, p. 5.
  7. ^ Bob Hite prefaces the recording with "OK ... light and greasy, don't let it go down". Russo 1994, p. 5.
  8. ^ a b c Greenwald, Matthew. "On the Road Again — Song review". Allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  9. ^ Palmer 1981, p. 244.
  10. ^ One author described Wilson's vocal style as "reminiscent of Skip James at his most ectoplasmic". Murray 2002, p. 382.
  11. ^ Wilson's harmonica solo has a note that is not playable without an overblow; he re-tuned his harmonica's six hole up a half step.
  12. ^ Russo 1994, p. 9.
  13. ^ "On the road again in Australian Chart". Poparchives.com.au. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Ultratop.be – Canned Heat – On The Road Again" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  15. ^ "On the road again in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  16. ^ "On the road again in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.  You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Canned Heat"
  17. ^ "Canned Heat – On The Road Again". Officialcharts.de. GfK Entertainment.
  18. ^ "On the road again in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 17 July 2013.  2nd result when searching "On the road again"
  19. ^ "Indice per Interprete: C". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  20. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Canned Heat search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  21. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Canned Heat – On The Road Again" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  22. ^ "Canned Heat – On The Road Again – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart.
  23. ^ "1968 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 21st September 1968". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  24. ^ "Canned Heat awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  25. ^ Murray 2002, p. 395.

References[edit]

External links[edit]