Song Of The Day 6/5/2015: Peter Fonda – “November Night”

Nuggets Week: Peter Fonda starred as Wyatt/Captain America in the classic film Easy Rider, which was advertised with the tag line "A man went looking for America and couldn't find it anywhere." Usually I check out the sofa cushions first thing, but that's just me. Easy Rider was a great drama about Kerouwacked coke dealers (Fonda and director Dennis Hopper) who come into a large sum of money, take off on a road trip across the USA, pick up a drunk lawyer (Jack Nicholson) on the way and insert their winking footnotes into the craw of the establishment. In the midst of their escapade some rednecks offer pointed, thoroughly researched ripostes analyzing the pitfalls of the choices the coke dealers and the lawyer have made and encouraging them to ponder their decisions and ramifications more thoughtfully. Just kidding: The rednecks kill everybody.

Fonda, who really is an underused national treasure as an actor (check out Ulee's Gold), had a nice singing voice, or at least one with the gravitas of a street poet and the folksy charm of a hip priest. "November Night" was written by none other than Gram Parsons, and co-produced by jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela ("Grazing in the Grass," the instrumental version). Parsons, who's Exhibit A if one's trying to prove that "country-rock" isn't a dirty word, knew Fonda from working together on Roger Corman's The Trip, which was written by Nicholson. It was not about backpacking through Europe. Masekela had heard Fonda playing guitar at a party and encouraged him to record some music, so off they went to make an album's worth of songs. Only this single was ever released, with a cover of Donovan's "Catch the Wind"* on the B-side. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's Masekela playing the mournful, Tex-Mex horn part; nobody has said for sure. "November Night" is also on that batshit crazy Nuggets comp Where the Action Is!

*(Apologies for the bad sound. Sometimes one takes what YouTube gives.)
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