Somewhere in the final hour of my birthday, the perfect moment: we’re at 3rd and Lindsley, the recently-expanded joint is crazy-jammed, and The Mavericks transition effortlessly and without a hitch, from “Guantanamera” into “Twist and Shout,” and that’s the essence of the thing right there, the place the band lives in that makes them so vital and so not-sum-up-able. They realize what links “Guantanamera” and “Twist and Shout” is more important than what divides them, that there was always an underlying Latin pulse in “Twist and Shout,” that “Guantanamera” was a Pop Record, and that it’s all fair game up there on the stage. It’s a band that can play “Never On Sunday,” a faux-Greek tune from a ‘60s movie, or “Jump In The Line,” a pop-calypso hit for Harry Belafonte:
But all that aside, because I’ve rattled on about The Mavs before, and how great it is that they’re back together and have a new album coming out and all that, what that perfect moment revealed again is how of all the “Twist” records that came out when the dance was, as they say, sweeping the nation, only “Twist and Shout” survived to become a durable go-to rock and roll classic, handed over — after Phil Spector took a first, muddled shot at it with The Top Notes on Atlantic — from The Isley Brothers to The Beatles and then into the canon for always and forever, its central five-note ascension as much a part of R&R as the Bo Diddley beat, to the point where when one band stuck it into an original song, they had to tack on a “Twist and Shout Interpolation” credit on the record for copyright purposes. That Top Notes record was maybe the last time “Twist and Shout” failed to work. It’s indestructible, as proven by everyone from The Shangri-Las to the E Street Band, and it goes with anything: it’s built on chords (I wish I knew how to describe them in musical terms, but my level of ignorance is pretty high in that regard) that allow it to cohabit with everything from “Hang On Sloopy” to “Like A Rolling Stone” to “Piece of My Heart.” I’m just going to call them Bert Berns Chords, but I think they go back earlier to “La Bamba.” Johnny Rivers made the connection, a-go-go style:
Truthfully, there was a series of perfect moments, which is how it goes sometimes in Nashville. Like, how is it possible that I’d never been to Arnold’s before, in all my decades of LGA>BNA travel, and never experienced the hot pepper chocolate pie (laced with cayenne, and insanely good), or the creamed corn that tastes like dessert, or the fried green tomatoes recommended as one of the best dishes in the south by the prestigious journal Garden & Gun magazine? And in the Georgetown mastering studio, the artist I’m working with got to play around with one of Duane Eddy’s actual guitars, and I remembered my first Nashville trip around a quarter-century ago when I was driven around in a truck by the daughters of Duane Eddy (and Jessie Colter) and Tony Joe White. Welcome to Music City. And I came home with new music from Ashley Monroe and Striking Matches in my bag.
Next month, Little Big Town and Kacey Musgraves are coming to Irving Plaza, and Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell (who have a duets album coming out that I cannot wait to hear) will be uptown at The Beacon, and The Mavericks will be downtown at Bowery Ballroom, and I don’t know why I still have a difficult time convincing some of my rock-and-pop-devoted friends that these are the shows they should be excited about going to. Really, I guarantee that there will be no better music made in New York City in February 2013. One of my companions at 3rd and Lindsley the other night is a 20-something woman who is well-versed about musical matters, whose tastes run from Alt-J to Phish and didn’t know what to expect at a Mavericks gig, but appeared to be pretty blissed out by the time the “Twist and Shout” flag was being waved. “They’re amazing!,” she said, unnecessarily, because, well sure. Happy birthday to me.