The Basement Tapes
Hamell on Trial - Choochtown (Evangeline, 1999)
Hamell on Trial - When Bobby Comes Down
Hamell on Trial - Choochtown
Hamell on Trial - The Long Drive
Hamell on Trial - Judy
Sorry folks. As much as I would love to wax lyrical on the might of Ed Hamell, I have the biggest hangover upon the planet and would very much like to wonder upstairs and lie down in front of the comforting cathode glow of the cricket. So this may be briefer than usual.
I've been a fan of Ed Hamell since I first got into music when I came into contact with "Go Fuck Yourself/Choochtown" on an Uncut cover CD. Hamell may be familiar to some of you from his regular column for the aforementioned monthly mag. Despite this admiration, I only just bought my first Hamell CD, 'Choochtown', after discovering it in a HMV bargain bin for a hideously undervalued price tag. Man, was it worth it!
"The Long Drive" is Marlowe caught in a compromising position with Capote and Kerouac. Recorded live into a boombox, it coasts along on the wings of a muted acoustic doing its Johnny C thang and a trumpet joining in for the choruses. It tells the tale of a Private Dick put on a case to find a woman who is "brilliantly doomed" stumbling into a spicy jambalaya of ashes, drug dealers and strychnine. I've personally always had a major soft spot for tunes with a cohesive narrative so this song in particular really tickles my pickle. It's a brilliant album closer thrown out on to the plate earlier than expected just for Hamell's own morbid kicks. The fact that the song is immediately followed up by the uptempo stomp of "Judy", the ultimate answer to Springsteen's "Kitty Back", makes it all the more macabre.
Actually, Hamell has a big thing for a narrative flow in his lyrics with possibly the greatest being the autobiographical "John Lennon" off 'The Chord is Mightier Than the Sword' which you simply have to hear. Ed's made it available with plenty of other album tracks, albeit very low quality (around 24k), on his web site here. Hamell even experiments with the songwriting medium with "When Bobby Comes Down" and "Choochtown" telling two sides of the same story with Bobby the guy who is "fun to hang around here when he's high, couldn't find a nicer guy, he would give you his own shirt/he starts to crash and you get hurt" whereas Chooch, the protagonist of "Choochtown", is the foul mouthed enforcer who accidently bumps into Bobby whilst on a sordid celebrity paedophile case. "When Bobby..." is a loud mouthed acoustic shout-a-long but "Choochtwon" is a completely different animal that seeks to masquerade as a lost Stones number; all incidental riffs and swagger that finally ends up with Chooch taking the song over and berating Hamell for not writing a song about him early. HEaring about the man's misadventure, I figurethat the man has a point.
Well, that's Hamell mapped out for you. But before I reach for the warm flannel to lay upon my aching brow, I just want to point you toward Will Robinson Sheff's post on Tim Hardin. 'Lenny' is a underground classic that's only available on the hard to find Tim Hardin III (aka Tim Hardin Live) or covered by that teutonic beauty and fellow lover of opiates, Nico. Read the article, download the music, but don't buy the CD unless you want stiff competition from yours truly.
Buy - Hamell on Trial - Choochtown
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