Nils in the early ’70s

Now that we’ve got some forward momentum let’s sustain it. Eh, fuck it, I was going to hold off on highlighting a Nils Lofgren song until later but I might as well do it now when Neil’s sound is still fresh in your memory. Chicago’s own, though mostly raised in D.C., Nils is not widely known and if he is, it’s for being one of the greatest sidemen or hired guns ever for artists like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. At the ripe age of 19 he contributed piano and guitar to Neil’s After the Goldrush album. Its his wunderkind like session work, coupled with his electric performances that he used to land his first recording contract. Grin the first album he released, gave a taste of the talent he had. It had very happy rocking songs and sunny poppers that were refreshingly different to most of what was going on in the post-Beatles, pre-Big Star or Badfinger golden power-pop era. However, it wasn’t until his sophomore release that he finally released his true statement. Not that this made much impact as all his early albums were quickly forgotten by rock audiences at the time.

1+1 was named justly so because each side of the album was supposed to be thematically different, Side A was its harder rockin’ side and Side B its dreamy slower side. Kicking off Side A was this utterly brilliant power pop track that in a just world would be a classic rock staple: “White Lies”. I’m going to be a polemic, but in a year of Number One Records and other power pop monuments…this was, in my opinion, the best track released on any of those albums.
If, any track ever sonically recreated Nils trademark guitar back flip, its this track. Like a pendulum swinging by the increasing perpetual motion of Nils cyclical guitar playing and soaring vocal melodies this track always threatens to breach its harness and just fly…and boy does it. Around the 2 minute mark as Nils signals its time to go home, the track just switches gears upward, with so much positive rocking spirit, that it feels like the aural equivalent of free flight. It becomes this simply exhilarating music that hovers over you. I still can’t believe this track was only a D.C. area hit and sank like stone everywhere else.

Listen to White Lies in Spotify…and another awesome track “Back it Up” from 1+1 below.

“Sometimes” the meditative track of the day, is from the dreamy side of this album. It really showcases Nils mastery of vast swaths of musical styles. Here he uses a very Hispanic-influenced melody to move you through one of man’s greatest mysteries: why do girls break our heart and why does it matter? Playing both marvelous acoustic guitar and accordion with some minimal rhythmic backing from Grin, Nils creates this smooth, forlorn sound very reminiscent of the semi-forgotten Young Rascals. Its a personal favorite of mine, its not quite as sad as it sounds or as mawkish as it could be, its simply a wonderful plaintive ode to getting over yourself. I mean, aren’t their trips that we take in our life where we prolong the agony longer by simply pouting over meaningless stuff? Listen to Nils, do ya’self a flip, and enjoy life…isn’t it so beautiful, most of the times? Kudos on Nils and Gary Briggs (Neil Young’s producer) for sticking the landing on both of these tracks, they both still sound utterly timeless.