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Song Stories

“Crosstown Traffic”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience | 1968

"Crosstown Trafic" was recorded at the Record Plant in 1968, and, as Jimi Hendrix explained, "I was playing piano on it." In addition, as legend tells it, he also played a homemade kazoo made from paper and a comb on the track. Traffic's Dave Mason was a guest vocalist (cleverly making the most of the word "traffic"), which is to say that "Crosstown Traffic" wasn't necessarily meant to be a  focal point of Electric Ladyland, and yet it was released as the album's third single. "You have the whole planned-out LP, and all of a sudden they'll make 'Crosstown Traffic,' for instance, a single, and that's coming out of a whole other set," Hendrix complained. Despite his protestations, the song hit the U.S. Hot 100 Singles chart in 1969 and hit again in 1990 in the U.K.; the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been doing a punked-up version of it since the 1980s.

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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