Spring and summer are "peak season" for rock bands on live performance tours. Over the years, the often grueling life on the road has been the subject of songs by the artists who live it. Here are some of the best examples of the world comprised of hotel rooms, rowdy crowds, and endless days of travel and nights of performing.
"Always another show,
Wondering where I am, lost without you,
And being apart ain't easy on this love affair."
Written by keyboardist Jonathan Cain, "Faithfully" is one of Journey's best known songs. It deals with the difficulty of having a family and remaining faithful while spending months at a time on the road.
Released in 1983, from Frontiers (compare CD prices)
"We do so many shows in a row,
And these towns all look the same.
We just pass the time in our hotel rooms,
And wander 'round backstage."
Jackson Browne's "The Load Out" looks at the touring life through the eyes of crews who labor in relative obscurity loading, unloading, transporting, setting up and tearing down the stages and equipment that showcase tour perfomers. The song was written by Browne and Bryan Garafolo. David Lindley, with whom Browne still tours today, is featured on steel guitar.
Released in 1977, from Running on Empty
"Somewhere I lost connections,
Ran out of songs to play.
I came into town, a one night stand,
Looks like my plans fell through.
Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again."
John Fogerty had never been to Lodi, California when he picked the town as the locale for the Creedence Clearwater Revival song about a musician who isn't able to earn enough money to leave the town. Fogerty, whose hometown of Berkley is about 70 miles away, picked Lodi because he liked the way the name sounded.
Released in 1969, from Green River (compare CD prices)
"Hope you're well at home.
Next week I'll try to phone.
Not very long to go,
I'll tell you when I'm coming home
As soon as I know."
Bassist John Entwistle wrote the lead track of The Who's 1974 release Odds and Sods at a time when the band was touring extensively and, from Entwistle's perspective, much of the "fun" of the rock star life was being replaced by the grind of constant travel and performing. The lyrics recall gigs in Germany, Italy, Australia and the U.S. with the last line summarizing life on the road, "We've done very well, but we've been to hell and heaven as well."
"Well, the ballrooms and smelly bordellos,
And dressing rooms filled with parasites.
On stage the band has got problems
They're a bag of nerves on first nights.
He ain't tied down to no home town
Yeah, and he thought he was reckless.
You think he's bad, he thinks you're mad
yeah, and the guitar player gets restless."
Written by Glimmer Twins Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, "Torn and Frayed" sheds a light on the seedier side of touring. The title describes the condition of the coat of a fictional (or not?) guitar player traveling from town to town. The musical style, unusual for Rolling Stones, is country rock.
Released in 1972, from Exile on Main Street (compare CD prices)
"Well we've been around this great big world,
And we've met all kinds of guys and girls,
From Kamoto Islands to Rockaway Beach.
No, it's not hard, not far to reach."
Ramones offered a comparatively sunny view of life on the road with references to "cruising down the highway" in a "fuel-injected tour bus" to places where "the kids all come from miles around" for a "party" that "gets started when the sun goes down." "Touring" (written by Joey Ramone) was released in 1992 on Mondo Bizarro (compare CD prices.)
"Listen to the radio, talkin' about the last show,
Someone got excited, had to call the state militia,
Playin' in a travelin' band, yeah.
Well, I'm flyin' across the land, tryin' to get a hand,
Playin' in a travelin' band."
Given the tremendous amount of touring CCR did in the late '60s and early '70s, it isn't suprising that life on the road was the theme of more than one John Fogerty tune at the time. "Travelin' Band" is done in '50s rock style (think Little Richard) and dwells on the rigors of endless airplane rides, lost luggage, and unruly crowds.
Released in 1970, from Cosmo's Factory (compare CD prices)
"Turn the Page" - Bob Seger
"So you walk into this restaurant,
Strung out from the road,
And you feel the eyes upon you,
As you're shaking off the cold.
You pretend it doesn't bother you
But you just want to explode."
Bob Seger wrote a slow, mournful treatment of the touring grind as he sat in yet another hotel room on yet another tour. "Turn the Page" originally appeared in 1973 on Back in '72 and struck a chord with several other artists (Metallica, Waylon Jennings, Kid Rock, among others) who later covered it.
"Another town another place,
Another girl, another face,
Another truck, another race.
I'm eating junk, feeling bad,
Another night, I'm going mad."
Like Jackson Browne's "The Load Out", Motörhead's "(We Are) The Road Crew" offers a roadie's-eye view of the road. In typical fashion, the lyrics dwell on the dark side, detailing the beer drinking, glue sniffing, hotel room trashing life with a traveling metal / hard rock band.
Released in 1980, from Ace of Spades (compare CD prices)
"On the road for forty days,
Last night in Little Rock put me in a haze.
... We're coming to your town, we'll help you party down.
We're an American band."
Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer wrote the title song (and provided its rapid-fire opening riff) for the 1973 We're An American Band album. With its references to "booze and ladies" and all night poker games and tearing "that hotel down" the song epitomizes the sterotype of the sex-drugs-rock 'n' roll lifestyle prevalent among rockers of the day.