David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 334: The Notting Hillbillies (Feel Like Going Home)

March 13, 2024

Recently, I got into my car after a tiring day of work, and my phone randomly went to "Feel Like Going Home," by The Notting Hillbillies. I hadn't even gotten out of the parking lot, and I was thinking, "fate/God, you nailed it!" In case you don't know, The Notting Hillbillies were a country-rock supergroup formed for one album, "Missing. . . Presumed Having A Good Time," comprised of Mark Knopfler, Steve Phillips, Brendan Croker, and Paul Franklin (Dire Straits' keyboardist, Alan Fletcher, co-produced with Knopfler and should have been on the cover, but I guess a keyboard takes away from the all-guitar cover). 

In that moment in the SMC parking lot, "Feel Like Going Home" was the most aptly named song ever. It rewarded me in so many ways with home. First, the acutely accurate lyrics (Charlie Rich's, originally recorded in 1971) are devastatingly beautiful:

Lord, I feel like going home/

I tried and I failed and I'm tired and weary/

Everything I ever done was wrong/

And I feel like going home.

It gets even better by the second verse, where "home" is the lover, the confidante, the soulmate:

Lord, I tried to see it through/

But it was too much for me/

And now I'm coming home to you/

And I feel like going home.

Frankly, these lines remind me about the beauty that is country and western music, beauty that doesn't have to be shrink-wrapped in pick-up trucks and patriotism. Not even on my worst days of work would I feel that I tried and failed or that everything I'd done was wrong, but there's great comfort in the idea that no matter what went down, going home is some kind of saving grace. And not the home of Robert Frost, who famously wrote "home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." Instead, it is the home of a Norman Rockwell painting, as idealized as that is. Maybe such home is unrealistic, but when you have had a tough day, envisioning getting to some place of refuge that you call home is a reasonable goal.

Rich's original version is a testament to musical arrangement, piano at the core, but pedal steel guitar and soaring organ filling in the margins. With the almost painfully slow vocal delivery of Rich, the original version of the song seems the slowest trip to home ever. With the Notting Hillbillies, the arrangement is almost entirely guitars (and who wouldn't do that when your group is basically four renowned guitarists); meanwhile, Brendan Croker's vocals may surpass Rich's, blasphemous as that may be, and not simply in getting the words out a tad more quickly. Hill's drive home is a Amish Horse-and-Buggy; Croker's is at least a scooter.  But it is a mighty fine scooter. I would be hard-pressed to name a better vocal delivery.

So, hearing that song in the parking lot as I got ready to fly down Dailey to home was a reminder about the value of home for our hearts and souls, but that wasn't the only satisfactory, metaphorical home, it touched. Additionally, because my mind, always in part has to be thinking about the next song in this song series, went, "wait, I haven't done The Notting Hillbillies yet. Ka-ching!" I'm coming home to you, song series, and I will churn out day 334, one day closer to unyoking this burden, this labor of love.

As I edge closer and closer to my 365 deadline, it feels right that Knopfler, one of the four members of this super group, has now been represented four times in the song series: Days 176 (Knopfler and Chet Atkins), 240 (Knopfler solo), 316 (Dire Straits), and now 334 (The Notting Hillbillies). With 31 blogs to go, no artist will be represented more (Ironically, Knopfler's ex-paramour, the woman "Romeo and Juliet" is apparently about, Holly Beth Vincent, could be if I figure out an Oblivious song (likely), but it seems unlikely I have a Vowel Movement moment, fantastic band name notwithstanding).

A further oddity of coming to this place of permanent fixture: Dire Straits was the last of my go-to artists to be used in this series. For the longest time, I couldn't figure out why I hadn't been motivated to write about one of their songs. It now seems really clear I needed Knopfler for the backstretch (ironic in that racing is a frequent topic of song for him) to get this beat-up jalopy of a song series home. I may have gone all over the place with this song series, but in the end, "home" can only be a Knopfler-based track.

The Notting Hillbillies. "Feel Like Going Home." Missing. . .Presumed Having A Good Time. Warner Bros, 1990. Link here.

Day 333: Patti Smith Group "Pissing In A River"

Day 335: Huey Lewis & The News "I Want A New Drug"

See complete list here.