Recordings where people laugh

by Adam Reger

I’m listening to an episode of The Best Show on WFMU (which I slavered over here) from a couple of weeks ago. Jon Wurster is in the studio as Rick Spangler, “a record producer with a diverse resume.” Although usually unflappable, Wurster here cracks himself up repeatedly, playing it off as an effect of pollen and breath mints, and glossing over the covered-microphone silences as his having fallen out of his chair.

And I am loving it. It’s reminding me of this Elliott Smith cover, “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down),” a Hank Williams, Jr., song, which is on the CD that comes with Autumn de Wilde’s Elliott Smith photo book. I think the CD is called “Live at Largo,” if a CD in the back of a book can have a proper title, but in any case that’s what the music is: recordings from a show at Largo in Los Angeles (which, just to make this post splinter off in as many directions as possible, here is a New Yorker piece describing the scene at Largo (though you have to have digital access to get at more than the abstract, so maybe save yourself the click if you don’t want your interest piqued and then rudely stifled)).

But anyway the reason I love the song is that Smith laughs repeatedly during the song and sounds, generally, happy. He totally blanks on part of the lyrics, which I’ve now discovered to be “corn bread and iced tea took the place / Of pills and ninety proof.”

Also, here’s Hank Williams, Jr. playing the original. Not surprisingly, I prefer the Elliott Smith version. Last weekend I picked up a cassette of Hank Williams, Jr.’s greatest hits at Salvation Army (minus any kind of cover or case, which made it all that much more thrilling) and by Tuesday I was pretty well done with it. Country music remains, like the films of Jerry Lewis, way better in theory than in my actual experience of them. It is a great song, though.

And another plus is that I now get the self-referential line Williams, Jr. throws into the Monday Night Football theme at the end, when he goes, “All my rowdy friends are here on Monday night.”