Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 256
Thurs. Nov 13, 2013

“In a Station”
The Band


“♫ Is
you could
show me?

Many fans and critics point to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as being the album that changed rock music but there’s an LP that was released in 1968, The Band’s Music from Big Pink, officially put the steak through the heart of Psychedelia. Richard Manuel, Gareth Hudson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson were an answer to the unauthentic psychedelic “chocolate subway” sounds that were cluttering up the rock scene in the late 1960s. Sending a seismic shockwave of inspiration from Woodstock, New York, The Band’s Big Pink changed the musical landscape bringing a down home sense of pastoral reflective beauty away from the noisy studio trickery nonsense that made Psychedelia so infamous. The voice behind this new genuine country sound was The Band’s vocalist Richard Manuel. He led the lyrical train with the revolutionary beauty that was “In a Station.”

Elvis Costello called the Band’s music was “like receiving a letter from the other side of the world, a world you couldn’t possibly understand, let alone visit.” The Band’s Big Pink was so influential that not only did Eric Clapton and George Harrison both visit Manuel, Hudson, Helm, Danko and Robertson in Woodstock, both ‘British rock royalty’ wanted to literally join The Band. Harrison famously called his new favorite mates, “The best band in the history of the universe.

After hearing an early pressing of Big Pink, Eric realized, “This is what music was should sound like.” In Barney Hoskyns book Across The Great Divide: The Band and America, Slowhand talked about how much Big Pink influenced the guitarist on a spiritually influential level when Clapton explained, “I used to put it on as soon as I checked into my hotel room, do the gig and be utterly miserable, then rush back and put the tape on and go to sleep contented until I woke up the next morning and remembered who I was and what I was doing. [Music from Big Pink] was that potent.”

The Band’s sound was so potent that The Band’s Music from Big Pink became one the driving forces that led to Clapton leaving his very successful trio Cream and he told Bob Carruthers, “At that point in time I decided that I was leaving Cream. I got the tapes of Music from Big Pink and I thought this is what I want to play—not extended solos and maestro bullshit but just good funky songs. The combination of that Rolling Stones thing and hearing Big Pink decided for me that I was going to split Cream.” Big Pink’s influence was so earth-shatteringly inspiring that even guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix recorded an acoustic version of The Band’s “Tears of Rage,” finally released in 2010’s West Coast Seattle Boy.

There was something in The Band’s sound that artists like Clapton never heard before when he said in Carruthers book Eric Clapton Uncensored and on the Record, “I’d never really like country music before because I thought it was over-sentimental. That was when I was into being very aggressive and just playing straight blues. Country music was just sloppy. But the Band bridged the gap. They gave country music a bit it didn’t have before.”

While Clapton, Hendrix and a legion of other Brit rock luminaries were busy being influenced by The Band, there was one artist who was the key inspiration for “In A Station,” the quiet Beatle George Harrison. Levon Helm talked about Manuel’s “Station” in his book This Wheel’s on Fire, co-authored with Stephen Davis, when The Band’s drummer wrote, ““In a Station” is Richard’s song about Overlook Mountain and the relative peace we were all feeling after those long years living on the road. He used to laugh and call it his George Harrison song, by which I meant it was visionary and [very] spiritual.” Songs like “In a Station” were the idealized Zen like places that successful rockers like Clapton and Harrison were trying to reach in their own careers. Here they found these young contemporaries, The Band, who has single-handedly discovered the secret of spiritual bliss artists like Eric and George have spent their craft trying to achieve.

Ironically enough Manuel didn’t see his song or his craft as that ground breaking, like most artists, he had this doubts about his own talent which he shared in Hoskyns book Across The Great Divide, “I always liked that line “I could taste your hair.” I can write music very easily but when it comes to words I cringe.” Harrison did anything but cringe as some of The Band’s rhythms would find themselves in The Beatles future records as author Simon Lang noted on his book The Music of George Harrison: While My Guitar Gently Weeps, “Numerous elements of Music from Big Pink either showed a Beatles influence or found echoes in The Beatles’ and Harrison’s music: “In a Station” featured distended slide guitar and “Tears of Rage” had the Leslie-toned guitars which immediately appeared on Abbey Road.”

Just like The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Band’sBig Pink and Richard Manuel’s influence inspired legions of would rockers to start their own bands. But even more impressive than V.U.’s genius was that The Band single–handedly changed the sound of music with one single album. So influential that both Eric Clapton and George Harrison wanted to leave their bands, Cream and The Beatles, to become full-time members of The Band. Manuel’s “In a Station” was the leader of that spiritual shift away from the “chocolate subway” sounds of Psychedelia into a more American country rock sound found on Big Pink.

What first sounds like the opening strands of mellotron psychedelics turns into a deeper trip when you hear the heavenly voice of Richard Manuel. There’s a sense of soulful enlighten flowing throughout like you’ve opened the window to a new world that you’ve always known existed but never discovered until you opened your ears to the sound of “In a Station.” Manuel is your spiritual guide taking you inside the wondrous landscapes of his tranquil echoes of lyrical perfection. I urge you to take that sacred Big Pink journey through the sounds of “In a Station,” if this is your first journey on this trip, lay back and enjoy the ride—you’re ears will be wide open and your mind will flow within the beautifully illuminating musical and lyrical grandeur of this Richard Manuel penned classic.

click on link to rediscover the majestic beauty of Richard Manuel & The Band’s “In a Station”: