Seven Bridges Road

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"Seven Bridges Road" is a song written by American musician Steve Young, recorded in 1969 for his Rock Salt & Nails album. It has since been covered by many artists, the best-known version being a five-part harmony arrangement by English musician Iain Matthews recorded by the American rock band Eagles in 1980.

Composition and original recording[edit]

"Seven Bridges Road"
Single by Steve Young
from the album Rock Salt & Nails
B-side "Many Rivers"
Released 1969
Format 45 single
Recorded 1969
Genre Country
Length 3:22
Label Reprise
Songwriter(s) Steve Young
Producer(s) Paul Tannen

Steve Young was inspired to write "Seven Bridges Road" during a sojourn in Montgomery, Alabama, in the early 1960s: according to Young "a group of friends...showed me [a] road [that] led out of town...After you had crossed seven bridges you found yourself out in the country on a dirt road. Spanish moss hung in the trees and there were old farms with old fences and graveyards and churches and streams. A high-bank dirt road with trees. It seemed like a Disney fantasy at times. People went there to park or get stoned or just to get away from it all. I thought my friends had made up the name 'Seven Bridges Road'. I found out later that it had been called by that name for over a hundred years. "[1]

The song's locale has been identified as Woodley Road, a rural two-lane road which runs south off East Fairview Avenue - the southern boundary of Montgomery's Cloverdale neighborhood - at Cloverdale Road, and which features seven bridges; three pairs of bridges, and the seventh approximately 1 mile south by itself. Young himself never publicly identified the actual name of the road possibly due to faulty recollection; however, Alabaman journalist Wayne Greenhaw in his book My Heart Is in the Earth: True Stories of Alabama & Mexico (Red River Publishing/ 2001) relates how on a Sunday in springtime he accompanied Young and their friend Jimmy Evans on a drive down Woodley Road to Orion for a guitar jam session with bluesman C. P. Austin, and that it was on the return trip up Woodley Road that Young began the composition of "Seven Bridges Road". [2][3]

Jimmy Evans, then Young's room-mate and later Attorney General of Alabama, also endorses Woodley Road as being Young's inspiration: (Evans quote:) "I'd go down [Woodley Road] to Orion a lot to listen to ...C. P. Austin...There [were] seven wooden bridges [on Woodley] and we'd go out there a lot...I thought it was the most beautiful place around Montgomery that I'd ever seen. That road was a cavern of moss; it looked like a tunnel." [4] Evans specifically recalls the Woodley Road trip which occasioned Young's writing "Seven Bridges Road": "That night there was a full moon. We were in my Oldsmobile, and when I stopped Steve got out on the right side fender. We sat there a while, and he started writing down words." [4] Evans recalls that after beginning to write the song on Woodley Road that night, Young completed his composition at the apartment he and Evans shared in Montgomery's Capitol Heights neighborhood. [4]

Young's own recollection was that the final version of "Seven Bridges Road" "was put together over a period of several years. Sometimes I'd say [to myself] 'good song'. Then I'd say nobody could relate to a song like this." [5] Young did play a completed version of the song at a gig in Montgomery - according to Jimmy Evans, Young's usual local performing venue was the Shady Grove club [4] - ; (Young quote:) "it got a big reaction. I was very surprised and thought it just because it was a local known thing and that was why they liked it." When Young did approach a Hollywood-based music publisher in 1969 with "Seven Bridges Road" he was advised the song "wasn't commercial enough." [5] "Seven Bridges Road" was not originally intended for inclusion on the Rock Salt & Nails album; in fact, Young states album producer Tommy LiPuma "didn't want me to record original songs. He wanted me to be strictly a singer and interpreter of folk songs and country standards." [6]

However, in Young's words: "One day we ran out of songs to record [for Rock Salt & Nails] in the studio...[7] I started playing 'Seven Bridges Road'. LiPuma interjected: 'You know I don't want to hear original stuff.' But [guitarist] James Burton said: 'Hey, this song sounds good and it is ready, let's put it down...[6] After it was recorded, LiPuma had to admit that, original or not, it was good."[7] Subsequent to the song's introduction on Rock Salt & Nails, Young remade the song twice, on his 1972 album entitled Seven Bridges Road and on his 1978 album No Place to Fall.

In a 1981 interview Young would say of "Seven Bridges Road": "Consciously when I wrote it, it was just a song about a girl and a road in south Alabama. Now I think there's almost a mystical thing about it." [5]

Ian Matthews version/Eagles version[edit]

"Seven Bridges Road"
Seven Bridges Road.jpg
Single by Eagles
from the album Eagles Live
B-side "The Long Run (live)" (4:08)
Released 15 December 1980
Format 45 single
Recorded 28 July 1980
Genre Country rock
Length 3:02
Label Asylum 2051
Songwriter(s) Steve Young
Producer(s) Bill Szymczyk
Eagles singles chronology
"I Can't Tell You Why"
(1980)
"Seven Bridges Road"
(1980)
"Get Over It"
(1994)
"I Can't Tell You Why"
(1980)
"Seven Bridges Road"
(1980)
"Get Over It"
(1994)

"Seven Bridges Road" would have its highest profile incarnation due to a 1980 live recording by Eagles [6][8] whose 4/4 tempo and close harmony vocal arrangement are borrowed from a recording made by Ian Matthews from his August 1973 album release Valley Hi. [9] Matthews' album was recorded with producer Mike Nesmith at the latter's Countryside Ranch studio in North Hills (LA): Nesmith would recall of Matthews' recording of "Seven Bridges Road": "Ian and I put it together and [we] sang about six or seven part harmony on the thing, and I played acoustic. It turned out to be a beautiful record[ing]".[10] On the similarity of the Eagles' later version, Nesmith would state: "Son of a gun if...Don [Henley] or somebody in the Eagles didn't lift [our] arrangement absolutely note for note for vocal harmony for vocal harmony...If they can't think it up themselves [and] they've got to steal it from somebody else, better they should steal it...from me I guess." [10] Ian Matthews would recall that in 1973 he and the members of Eagles were acquainted through frequenting the Troubadour: "we were forever going back to somebody's house and playing music. Don Henley had a copy of 'Valley Hi' that he liked, so I've no doubt about that being where their version of the song came from." [11]

The Eagles recorded "Seven Bridges Road" for their Eagles Live concert album. According to band member Don Felder, when the Eagles first began playing stadiums the group would warm up pre-concert by singing "Seven Bridges Road" in a locker room shower area. After, each concert would then open with the group's five members singing "Seven Bridges Road" a capella into a single microphone. Felder recalls that it "blew [the audience] away. It was always a vocally unifying moment, all five voices coming together in harmony." [12] Following the release of the Hotel California album, that set's title cut replaced "Seven Bridges Road" as the Eagles' concert opener, and according to Felder, the band "rarely even bothered to rehearse with it in the shower of the dressing room anymore." [12] The song was restored to the set list for the Eagles' tour, prior to the band's 31 July 1980 breakup, with the band's performance of the song at their 28 July 1980 concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, which was recorded for the Eagles Live album released in November 1980. They issued it as a single, with "The Long Run" (live) as its B-side; Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" reached #21 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 becoming the group's final Top 40 hit until "Get Over It" by the reunited band in 1994. "Seven Bridges Road" also became the third Eagles' single to appear on the Billboard C&W chart, reaching #55 there. [13] At the time Eagles charted with "Seven Bridges Road" the song's composer Steve Young commented: "I didn't like the Eagles' version at first. I thought it was too bluegrassy, too gospel. But the more I hear it, the better it sounds." [5]

Ricochet version[edit]

"Seven Bridges Road"
Single by Ricochet
from the album What You Leave Behind
A-side "Do I Love You Enough"
B-side "Seven Bridges Road"
Released 17 March 2000
Format CD single
Recorded Sound Stage Studio
Nashville TN
1999
Genre Country rock
Length 3:06
Label Columbia 79379
Songwriter(s) Steve Young
Producer(s) Ron Chancey, Blake Chancey
Ricochet singles chronology
"Can't Stop Thinkin' 'Bout That"
(1998)
"Seven Bridges Road"
(2000)
"Can't Stop Thinkin' 'Bout That"
(1998)
"Do I Love You Enough"/
"Seven Bridges Road"
(2000)

Ricochet, who had been performing "Seven Bridges Road" in concert, recorded the song in 1998 in the sessions for the intended album release What a Ride. After two advance singles from What a Ride: "Honky Tonk Baby" and "Can't Stop Thinkin' 'Bout That", had fallen short of the Top 40 of the C&W chart, the track "Seven Bridges Road" was sent to C&W radio stations in April 1999 and a video was prepared to promote the track. Shot in sepia tone and mostly comprising footage shot on Woodley Road where trysting couples were shown at various times during the 20th century, the video for "Seven Bridges Road" received strong support from CMT: however the track itself only rose to #48 on the C&W chart, and the release of its parent What a Ride album was canceled. "Seven Bridges Road" was included on the 2000 Ricochet album release What You Leave Behind with the track serving as B-side of that album's first single "Do I Love You Enough". [14] "Seven Bridges Road" is performed live by Ricochet on the band's 2004 concert album The Live Album.

Other versions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Interview: Steve Young". Music-Illuminati.com. Retrieved 2014-06-09. 
  2. ^ "My Heart Is in the Earth: an interview with author Wayne Greenhaw by Joyce Dixon". SouthernScribe.com. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "My Heart Is in the Earth: true stories of Alabama & Mexico by Wayne Greenhaw/ review by Joyce Dixon". SouthernScribe.com. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d http://primemontgomery.com/?p=14787
  5. ^ a b c d "Gadsden Times". Gadsden Times (January 28, 1981): 6. 
  6. ^ a b c Einarson, John (2001). Desperados: the roots of country rock. New York: 1st Cooper Square Press. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-8154-1065-2. 
  7. ^ a b "American Songwriter". Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  8. ^ Atkinson, Brian T. (2012). I'll Be Here in the Morning: the songwriting legacy of Townes Van Zandt. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-1603445269. 
  9. ^ "10 Folk Albums Rolling Stone Love in the 70s You Never Heard Of". RollingStone.com. Retrieved 15 June 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Nesmith, Mike (11 October 1996). "interview, Mike Nesmith". The Janice Malone Show (Interview). Interview with Janice Malone. AudioNet.com. 
  11. ^ (1993) The Soul of Many Places: The Elektra Years, 1972-1974 by Ian Matthews CD booklet. NYC: Elektra 9 61457-2
  12. ^ a b Felder, Don (2008). Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974–2001). Hoboken NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. a 124 b 181. ISBN 978-0470450420. 
  13. ^ "Eagles chart history". Allmusic. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  14. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 351. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 

External links[edit]