Play "Free Bird"!

Using the Bob-O-Meter to rate cover songs

Bob Schneider concerts remind us of the all-you-can-eat roadside smorgasbord where we stopped after a daylong field trip in the fourth grade. You paid, like, $2.75, then packed your piehole till you were pretty sure you were gonna yak. Our friend Jon H. managed to put away 27 pieces of fried chicken.

You grow up, and the lost smorgasbords of your youth leave a void. So you fill that abyss with the live sounds of peerless Austin-based rocker Bob Schneider, whose two-hour-and-then-some sets careen from sing-along jams pioneered by Schneider's raunchy alter-ego band the Scabs, to unreleased material that might or might not appear on an upcoming album (tentatively titled Fuck All You Motherfuckers), to songwritery ballads that make the college chicks go all weak-kneed.

And then, boys and girls, there's our topic for today: the covers.

Along with the vast catalog of originals, Bob and the band have a penchant for dipping into others' oeuvres, typically the territory classic rockers like to call deep cuts -- from Grandmaster Flash to the Climax Blues Band, Violent Femmes to Kansas, "Hooked on a Feeling" to "The Weight."

With this in mind, we sat down with a pitcher of margaritas and downloaded a CD full of rawk. Then we phoned Schneider on the road. While he watched the miles roll by, we played him our CD, requesting that he rate the songs on the Bob-O-Meter for cover consideration. The annotated results (*= already covered):

1 Schneid "All Right Now" (Free) At one point when I was in high school, that was my favorite song. But no.

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid

"(Don't Fear) the Reaper" (Blue Öyster Cult)* We did a recording of it that I submitted to the folks at Six Feet Under. They passed on it.

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid

"Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)" (Hollies) A definite maybe.

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid

"Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" (Looking Glass) Not sure I could do it justice. You know who would? Big Head Todd.

1 Schneid

"Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" (Rolling Stones)It's like going to a radio station and somebody gives you a bunch of CDs -- "I'll take all these CDs." And then you never listen to them.

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid"Take It Easy" (Jackson Browne)*

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid "Crazy On You" (Heart)

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid

"Turn the Page" (Bob Seger) Someone sent me a Bob Seger record cover where I look exactly like Bob Seger at a certain age. I might consider doing that one with the Scabs, but with Bob Schneider I'd do one that didn't have any sax. I'd probably do "Like a Rock."

1 Schneid "Spanish Moon" (Little Feat)

1 Schneid

"Can't You See" (Marshall Tucker Band)

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid

"You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" (Bachman-Turner Overdrive) A definite-for-sure yes.

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid

"Games People Play" (Joe South)

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid

"Tuesday's Gone" (Lynyrd Skynyrd) We do "Sweet Home Alabama." Sometimes people request "Free Bird," and they're joking. We play it anyway.

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid

"La Grange" (ZZ Top)*May do it again.

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid

"Free Ride" (Edgar Winter Group) For the Scabs, definitely.

1 Schneid1 Schneid1 Schneid

"Midnight Rider" (Allman Brothers Band) That's a hard one. You playing me that song may have been the key to unlocking what's wrong with me. Because half of me is saying absolutely not, and the other half is saying fuckin' cool!

1 Schneid

"One Toke Over the Line" (Brewer & Shipley) I want you to send me the CD just so I can have a copy of that song. But no -- I don't like to have too much fun at the expense of Jesus.

BOLDFACE HISTORY

We like our legends large, and that's part of what's made David Allan Coe (who plays the Sam Houston Race Park Friday) such an icon. The stories about him are legion, and untangling truth from fiction would be as fruitless as trying to outrun your past. They're forever intertwined, like who we are and what we were. Or as Coe says, "It's the past that molded my future and paved the way to my current situation." It's tempting to put parts of Coe's legend in boldface type -- and who are we to resist temptation?

It's a past that found the rebellious Coe in and out of reform schools during his youth, culminating in a stint in the Ohio state penitentiary. Legend has it he spent time on death row for killing a fellow inmate who demanded a blow job. When a Rolling Stone writer questioned this account, Coe penned a musical response: "I'd Like to Kick the Shit Out of You."

He got out of prison in 1967, a longhaired, earring-clad, tattooed rebel sporting the colors of the Outlaws biker gang with whom he once ran. He recorded an album called Penitentiary Blues the next year. It's as much blues as country, with a raw, almost-rock energy that would characterize the "outlaw country" movement led (inspired?) by Coe, Billy Joe Shaver and Coe's lifelong friends Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.

Coe would never make it as big as Waylon and Willie, but he wrote a number of hits, especially for other artists, such as Tanya Tucker's "Would You Lie with Me (in a Field of Stone)" and Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job And Shove It. " He's a terrific storyteller, with equal talent for cutting wise (as on the classic Steve Goodman-penned "You Never Even Called Me By Name," where Coe opines the perfect C&W song must have a mama, a train, a truck, prison and getting drunk), and cutting to the heart of a matter (as on his Human Emotions record, dedicated to his failed marriageand split into the "Happy Side" and "Suicide"). In the '80s he even wrote several X-rated "biker" albums with songs such as "Pick'em, Lick'em and Stick'em" and "Little Suzie Shallow Throat. "

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