Somewhere Down the Crazy River

Robbie Robertson’s “Somewhere Down the Crazy River” is one of the most atmospheric songs I have in my collection and it also happens to be one of my favorites, a song that has been played so many times that there shouldn’t be any bits and bytes left on the CD I bought ages ago.

The song is said to be Robertson reminiscing about “his experiences of hanging out in his old neighbourhood of Arkansas with Levon Helm (fellow The Band member) during hot nights in which they were ‘fishing with dynamite’ and had asked a local for directions to ‘somewhere down the crazy river’“. Be that as it may, the song’s ambience connects me to many nights spend with friends until the sun rose on the horizon, at a time when “real” life and work were things of a distant future.

The song features one of the most deceptively simple and expressive percussion tracks I know, Suzuki’s Omnichord, Sam Llanas on backing vocals, as well as mostly spoken storytelling by Robertson that actually works for once. It also reached a surprisingly high position on both the UK singles (15) and the US Billboard mainstream rock tracks charts (24). Last, but not least, the recording quality is excellent and on a decent system, this track just soars.

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Martin Scorcese directed the music video.

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SOMEWHERE DOWN THE CRAZY RIVER

Yeah, I can see it now
The distant red neon shivered in the heat
I was feeling like a stranger in a strange land
You know, where people play games with the night
God, it was too hot to sleep

I followed the sound of a jukebox coming from up the levee
All of a sudden, I could hear somebody whistling from right behind me
I turned around, and she said
“Why do you always end up down at Nick’s Cafe?”
I said, “Uh, I don’t know, the wind just kinda pushed me this way”
She said, “Hang the rich”

Catch the blue train
Places never been before
Look for me
Somewhere down the crazy river
(Somewhere down the crazy river)
Ooh, catch the blue train
All the way to Kokomo
You can find me
Somewhere down the crazy river
(Somewhere down the crazy river)

Take a picture of this
The fields are empty, abandoned ’59 Chevy
Laying in the back seat listening to Little Willie John
Yeah, that’s when time stood still
You know, I think I’m gonna go down to Madam X
And let her read my mind
She said, “That voodoo stuff don’t do nothing for me”

I’m a man with a clear destination
I’m a man with a broad imagination
You fog the mind, you stir the soul
I can’t find no control
Ooh

Catch the blue train
Places never been before
Look for me
Somewhere down the crazy river
(Somewhere down the crazy river)
Ooh, catch the blue train
All the way to Kokomo
You can find me
Somewhere down the crazy river
(Somewhere down the crazy river)

Wait, did you hear that?
Oh, this is sure stirring up some ghosts for me
She said, “There’s one thing you gotta learn
Is not to be afraid of it”
I said, “No, I like it, I like it, it’s good”
She said, “You like it now
But you’ll learn to love it later”

I been spellbound
Falling in trances
I been spellbound
Falling in trances
You give me the shivers
Chills and fever
You give me the shivers
You give me the shivers
I been spellbound
I been spellbound
I been spellbound
(Somewhere down the crazy river)
Somewhere down the crazy river

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Robbie Robertson. “Somewhere Down th Crazy River.” 1989.

From the album: Robbie Robertson
Length: 4:57
Label: Geffen Records
Writer: Robbie Robertson
Producer(s): Dan Lanois/Peter Gabriel

Personnel
Robbie Robertson: vocals, backing vocals, guitar, keyboards
Manu Katché: drums
Bill Dillon: guitars
Tony Levin: bass

Additional personnel
Sammy BoDean (Sam Llanas): backing vocal
Bono: vocals

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Highly recommended, although some critics didn’t like it.

Posted by Volkher Hofmann

Volkher Hofmann (deus62) has been blogging on and off since the 1990s and deus62.com is all that is left. He loves music, literature, drumming and, most of all, real life. He thinks the open web is much more important than social networks, closed-in ecosystems and other severely commercialized online endeavors.

  1. One of my all-time favorite Robbie Robertson songs, including his entire Band catalog. I rank it in my top 50 every time I make a list of favorite pop songs.

    One minor detail. The woman in the video is Maria McKee, of Lone Justice fame. You might remember them for the hit, “Shelter.” When I first heard this on the radio, I mistook Sammy BoDean’s background vocals for her.

    Reply

  2. Volkher Hofmann18/12/2016 at 3:37 pm

    Maria McKee is never a minor detail. I thought she looked familiar but never thought of checking because I concentrated on other things in the video. It’s a nice video as well, although I remember a lot of directors going for a similar style around that time.

    BTW, have a look at this: I thought it was quite interesting. It’s a link to a a brief interview with McKee, McKee on the dramatic demise of her band Lone Justice, which I just dug out from my long list of links.

    Thanks for making it all the way over here, GK.
    Much appreciated.

    Reply

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