Lee Hazlewood: Downer Love Songs

Lee Hazlewood: Downer Love Songs

Unfortunately, turned into a footnote, Lee Hazlewood impacted the rock medium more than most would be able to figure. Although his most commercially successful works would come behind the boards as a producer or engineer, the music that Hazlewood had a hand in, regardless of what he was doing, fused together disparate elements of rock and country that could arguably be considered the foundation of country rock. It'd be one thing if this was hyperbole. It's not. And even in the music he would record himself, a great deal of the future can be figured pretty easily.

Growing up in a variety of down home, southern destinations, Hazlewood's interest in music wouldn't really become fully realized until after a stint in the Korean War. Subsequent to returning to the States, Hazlewood took up residence in California, only to make his way to Arizona where he would become a deejay on a local station spinning rock platters. It was during this time that Hazlewood found within himself some intersection of hillbilly leaning rock thoughtfulness. Merging the instrumentation of the newer genre with a lyrical sensibility of country and downer pop songs, the newly minted writer and producer set out to work with none other than Duane Eddy.

Although, Hazlewood and Eddy would collaborate on a string of successful instrumental, hillbilly rave ups, the producer and soon to be label honcho created his most well known work in the form of "These Boots Are Made for Walking," sung by Nancy Sinatra. It can't be said that the song was the pinnacle of his creativity, but folks still cover that song today in a variety of different genres - that means it was successful, I guess. But the slate of solo recordings that Hazlewood worked on and released during the '60s was only surpassed by his label's release of Safe at Home by the International Submarine Band featuring a young Gram Parsons.

But during the '60s, Hazelwood released no less than ten albums himself. The results weren't always the most even, but toward the end of the decade, in '68, Love and Other Crimes was released via Reprise Records. The cover of the disc, sporting a stoned looking Hazlewood appeared to have a hint of psychedilia tossed in. The discs' simple production and stripped down band didn't have the musical embellishments that were so common in Bay area rave ups, but the way in which Hazlewood recorded and produced his own vocals lent the disc a weird and distant echoed quality adding an air of ghostly reverence to the sometimes overwhelmingly emotional songs.

The term "Cowboy Psychedlia" could probably be better applied to the Byrds or the Flying Burrito Brothers - both of which counted Parsons as a member after leaving ISB - but it makes a bit of sense when levied on Hazlewood. There are barely any solos on Love and Other Crimes, but the simplicity of the music allowed the focus of the disc to fall squarely on the proto-Lou Reed mode of sing-speak that has imbued in it a serious and heavy vibe.