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In 1974, young J Oscar Bittinger took a cross-country road trip with a fellow church camp counselor to contemplate his future in ministry. The path for the adventure included many places mentioned in "On The Road" and "The Dharma Bums".
Upon return, a long journal song - originally called "Two Days Behind Kerouac" became the first "real" song J Oscar had ever written.
But, when it became apparent no-one was going to sit-though 22 verses, despite a fierce harmonica part, the classic struggle began of carving out a "true story" (for the listener) from the literal tale the teller insisted be told, no matter how rambling. Thus began a 40+ year balancing act between NOT-GIVING-the-f-UP, and learning what to let go...
In one version the teller attempt to cast the trip as "the hero's journey", in another it becomes a Dante-esque epic of faith lost and direction reclaimed, still another version attempts to make real and redeem every possible road trip cliche. Each were exhausting to work on, hard to hear, and not terribly fun to sing.
Then a happy accident happened. The lines "Forget the map - let's just drive" were improvised to fit in when chords got reversed. Recognizing the chorus was easier to sing, more lines were cut out or cleaned up.
But it wasn't till the song was brought to a band rehearsal, where Mark Hugger and Chris Ranney brought further electricity to the monster and we realized "it lives!" No doubt gang singing, tambourine swinging, hand claps and a trombone part (by Chris) in this recording also help to bring things to life. (And the harmonica survives as well.)
May "Kerouac" go with you on, or inspire, your next road trip.
"Love all the sensory images that place me directly in the world of your songs & the compelling and singable choruses." -
J Oscar Bittinger writes, produces, streams (www.facebook.com/Freewheelin.JOscar), plays live with musical friends & inventive acquaintances. SOUNDS LIKE: modern folk-rock, indie-pop, w/Americana ambiences, rock roots, + grooves with natural elements....more