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Song Stories

“Rock & Roll”

The Velvet Underground | 1970

Lou Reed celebrates the power of "Rock & Roll" with savage glee in the Velvet Underground song of that title, seeing it as the salvation of a young girl when it blasts out of the radio. First issued on the band's 1970 album, Loaded, it gained a new audience when a ten-minute version was featured on Reed's 1974 live album Rock'n'Roll Animal. "'Rock & Roll,'" he admitted in the liner notes to the VU box set Peel Slowly and See, "is about me. If I hadn't heard rock & roll on the radio, I would have had no idea there was life on this planet."

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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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