the-outlaws.jpgPhoto © John Gellman

As I’ve gotten older I’ve generated a few compulsive habits, some might say even a touch of OCD (nothing too serious, I mostly just wash my hands a lot, and what’s the harm in that I keep obsessively telling myself). When I was younger, I don’t recall having any such engrossing urges. Except for one: Since high school whenever I moved into a new place to live, the first song I had to listen to was ‘There Goes Another Love Song’ by The Outlaws. And I moved a pretty good amount: A dorm plus three different houses during college; Three apartments in Manhattan and one in Westchester; And then a house in the burbs. Maybe it also applied to more transitory stays as well, like summer rentals or weekend hotels, I’m not saying.

Why this song? 3 simple reasons: The Outlaws are my all-time favorite band; their 1975 self-titled debut The Outlaws is my all-time favorite album; and this is the opening track on that album. 1-2-3. Just like the 3-guitar triumvirate that dominated pretty much all their music, with an intricate yet overwhelming guitar “Wall of Sound” of which Phil Spector would be proud (when they were introduced in concert the emcee would always scream his welcome of the “Florida guitar army!,” but for a long time I wasn’t sure they weren’t being referred to as the “Four guitar army,” so dominating was their all-encompassing deluge of guitars).

I cared about little else more than Southern Rock in the mid- to late-70’s golden era of the now mostly disappeared genre. Musically? No, I mean just in general. And I loved all the pillar bands of the category: Lynyrd SkynyrdMarshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels, Allman Brothers, etc. The Outlaws generally seemed to be thought of on the next tier, sort of the less-renowned underdogs of the bunch. Maybe due to that, like Dorothy told the Scarecrow, I miss them most of all. The guitarists were the headliners, of course – originals Hughie Thomasson, Billy Jones and Henry Paul weaving notes together and trading tricky solos with both finesse and force – but their vocals also can’t be forgotten, striking 3- or 4-part harmonies, some I’d put up against the Eagles or even Beach Boys for their artistry. Overall they just made such fun, triumphal sounding records, joyful songs to which you might not so much dance, but more be driven to gleefully stomp your feet.

The last song on their eponymous album is indisputably the one for which The Outlaws are best remembered, ‘Green Grass and High Tides,’ the epic nearly 10-minute answer to Skynyrd’s larger-than-life anthem ‘Freebird’ which had come out just over a year before. It’s truly an archetype, a marathon of hellacious jamming too strenuous to be air-guitared all the way through – though I do find the urge constantly overwhelming, perhaps even bordering compulsive (like, say, excessive hand washing). And that’s the incredible album-closing tune; to get there, you still must start with track one, on moving-in day or any other day.

Oh, my family recently acquired a get-away home in coastal Maine. You may be able to guess what song was echoing around the empty rooms just as soon as we returned from the closing.