Posts Tagged ‘Eat A Peach’

reDiscover: Eat A Peach

From the opening bars of ‘Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More’, which kicks off “Eat A Peach” the Allman Brothers set out their stall on this, their third studio album. But as fans of the band know “Eat A Peach” is an album wreathed in sadness, because it was recorded between September and December 1971, and it was on 29th October that 24 year old Duane Allman was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. The album’s opening track was written for his brother by Gregg Allman.

It was originally a double LP and was a record of three distinct elements. There’s the shorter tracks that filled side 1 of the first album while sides two of both records featured the half hour live ‘Mountain Jam’ that had to be cut in this way to accommodate its length, as well as two more tracks on side one of the second LP that had been recorded live. The CD version included ‘Mountain Jam’ as one complete track and later deluxe reissues featured additional songs from the 27 June 1971 Fillmore closing night concert.

In September 1971 the band went to Miami’s Criteria Studios with producer Tom Dowd and at these sessions they cut, Blue Sky’, an instrumental they called, ‘The Road to Calico; that developed into ‘Stand Back, with the addition of vocals and Duane’s gorgeous instrumental, ‘Little Martha’. The band then went back on the road, before four of the band went to rehab to deal with their addiction problems.

Following Duane Allman’s untimely accident the band agreed they must carry on. As drummer, Butch Trucks later said, “[Duane] was the teacher and he gave something to us—his disciples—that we had to play out.” The three tracks included on the album recorded at the December Miami sessions are ‘Melissa,’ ‘Les Brers in A Minor,’ and ‘Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More’. Les Brers, as Dickey Betts, the song’s writer later said, it was bad French for “the brothers. ‘Melissa’ was written by Gregg in 1967, one of the first he wrote that he deemed worthy of saving, and it was a song that Duane always loved. Gregg Allman had always felt it wasn’t edgy enough for the Allmans and thought he might record it as a solo record someday, but decided to include it as a tribute to Duane.

The live tracks, including the extended ‘Mountain Jam’ were recorded at the Fillmore East; ‘Mountain Jam and Muddy Waters’s ‘Trouble No More’ in March 1971, while their cover of Elmore James’s ‘One Way Out’ dates from 27 June 1971.

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At the time Duane Allman was killed, the band had no title for the album, and when it was finished Atlantic Records suggested it should be called, ‘The Kind We Grow in Dixie’, but this was rejected out of hand. It was Butch Trucks that came up with the title, suggesting they call it, “Eat a Peach for Peace”, a phrase that Duane had once said in response to a question during an interview. “I’m hitting a lick for peace — and every time I’m in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace. But you can’t help the revolution, because there’s just evolution. I understand the need for a lot of changes in the country, but I believe that as soon as everybody can just see a little bit better, and get a little hipper to what’s going on, they’re going to change it.” Georgia is known as “The Peach State.”

Trucks too took inspiration from the album’s artwork that was largely created while Duane was still alive. W. David Powell of Wonder Graphics had seen old postcards in an Athens, Georgia drugstore; one of which depicted a peach on a truck and the other a watermelon on a rail car. He bought them and worked up the album’s distinctive cover. Because the album had no name, it is the reason that the artwork was left title-less for its release.

Prior to the album’s release there was much speculation that without Duane the band would implode. To kick start the promotion of the record a live radio broadcast of the band’s New Year’s Eve performance at New Orleans’s Warehouse was arranged. It helped reinforce the idea that the Allman Brothers Band was still alive and well; when the record came out on 12th February 1972 it met with instant success and soon made No.4 on the American Billboard album chart.

In the words of Rolling Stones’s Tony Glover “the Allman Brothers are still the best goddamned band in the land … I hope the band keeps playing forever — how many groups can you think of who really make you believe they’re playing for the joy of it?”

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‘Melissa’ was the album’s most successful single, making #65 on the Billboard Hot 100. ‘Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More’ and ‘One Way Out’ were also released as singles, charting at numbers 77 and 86, respectively. In 1972 the Band played close to a hundred shows to support of the record, mostly as headliners, often with label mates’ Cowboy or Wet Willie as their opening act. As Trucks said, “We were playing for him and that was the way to be closest to him.

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Allman Bros Melissa.jpg

Gregg Allman, founding member of the Allman Brothers Band and one of the citadels of Southern rock music, died at the age 69 due to complications from liver cancer. “Melissa” is a song by American rock band The Allman Brothers Band released in August 1972 as the second single from the group’s third studio album, Eat A Peach

Following the untimely death of Duane Allman, their founder and resident guitar hero, in 1971, the Allman Brothers Band easily could have crumbled beneath the weight of such a tragedy. The road beckoned, however. As a matter of fact, that road, with all of its heady highs and desolate lows, informed one of the first and most enduring triumphs of their post-Duane career.

“Melissa” actually dates back to a time before there was an Allman Brothers Band, back when Duane and brother Gregg were in a band called The 31st of February and the latter was still trying to find his songwriting touch. As he recalled to the San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune in a 2006 interview, Gregg struggled mightily to write something worthy.

“I wrote that song in 1967 in a place called the Evergreen Hotel in Pensacola, Florida,” he recalled. “By that time I got so sick of playing other people’s material that I just sat down and said, ‘Okay, here we go. One, two, three – we’re going to try to write songs.’ And about 200 songs later – much garbage to take out – I wrote this song called ‘Melissa”

The song’s namesake was almost settled as Delilah before Melissa came to Allman at a grocery store where he was buying milk late one night, as he told the story in his memoir, My Cross to Bear:

It was my turn to get the coffee and juice for everyone, and I went to this twenty-four-hour grocery store, one of the few in town. There were two people at the cash registers, but only one other customer besides myself. She was an older Spanish lady, wearing the colorful shawls, with her hair all stacked up on her head. And she had what seemed to be her granddaughter with her, who was at the age when kids discover they have legs that will run. She was jumping and dancing; she looked like a little puppet. I went around getting my stuff, and at one point she was the next aisle over, and I heard her little feet run all the way down the aisle. And the woman said, “No, wait, Melissa. Come back—don’t run away, Melissa!” I went, “Sweet Melissa.” I could’ve gone over there and kissed that woman. As a matter of fact, we came down and met each other at the end of the aisle, and I looked at her and said, “Thank you so much.” She probably went straight home and said, “I met a crazy man at the fucking grocery.” 

Gregg Allman rushed home and incorporated the name into the partially completed song, later introducing it to his brother: “[I] played it for my brother and he said, ‘It’s pretty good—for a love song.

The 31st of February fell apart before they could release “Melissa,” but a demo from that time period eventually surfaced in May of 1972 on a collection of the brothers’ early recordings. In the meantime, Duane and Gregg had moved onto superstardom with The Allman Brothers Band on the strength of two scorching studio albums and the stunning live document Live At Fillmore East, which showcased the band’s instrumental virtuosity as they straddled the realms of country, rock, and blues, creating epic jams out of that rich stew.

Everything changed on October 29th, 1971, when Duane Allman, at the age of 24, died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia. At the time, the band was working on the studio follow-up to At Fillmore East. After Duane’s death, the decision was made to turn that follow-up, 1972’s Eat A Peach, into a hybrid album of sorts. It would include live material left off At Fillmore East, some studio tracks with Duane that were in the can, and a few more new recordings by the surviving members. When it came time to cut the new material, Gregg Allman remembered “Melissa,” which had always been a personal favorite of his late brother. “And my brother sometimes late at night after dinner, he’d say, ‘Man, go get your guitar and play me that song – that song about that girl,” Gregg said. “And I’d play it for him every now and then. After my brother’s accident, we had three vinyl sides done of Peach, so I thought well we’ll do that …”

Calling it “that song about that girl” was probably a bit of oversimplification on Duane’s part, because “Melissa” reveals far more about the “gypsy” whose wandering lifestyle is detailed than it does about the girl. One can read the song as a metaphor for the nomadic existence of a touring rock star, but Gregg’s lyrics are somehow more cosmic and universal than that, hinting at the innate restlessness that dwells within us all and contradicts the need for the stability and love that waits when the road finally winds down. With the mention of the “Crossroads” that exert their pull on the gypsy character, Allman could certainly have been referencing the Robert Johnson myth that fueled so many blues and rock songs. Yet the song is sturdy enough to support the interpretation of the crossroads as a crucial turning point in everyone’s life, that line of demarcation that separates the reckless adventurer from the settled homebody. Gregg’s yearning vocal evokes it all. Rather than being romanticized, the road that the gypsy wanders is portrayed as unforgiving, nearly cruel. Lasting relationships are spurned in favor of temporary dalliances (“Knowing many, loving none”), while the rewards he reaps from his peripatetic nature are minimal (“And no one knows the Gypsy’s name/ No one hears his lonely sighs/ There are no blankets where he lies.”)

In contrast to this futility, Melissa waits in the gypsy’s “deepest dreams,” his redemption and salvation all rolled up in one. The fact that there are no details yielded about her save her name leads us to wonder if she ever really existed as more than just some idealized manifestation of a weary brain. The restrained musical accompaniment, somber acoustic guitars and Dickey Betts’ guitar teardrops that are a far cry from the Fillmore East heroics, certainly doesn’t promise a happy reunion at the end of the trail.

It’s tricky to utilize real-life events as context for song meanings, but Gregg’s every last moan conjures the toll the road takes and, as a result, seems to make a subtle commentary on his brother, a gypsy in his own right who was robbed by fate of his chance to return home, at least in life. What can’t be denied is that “Melissa,” intended as a kind of tribute to Duane Allman, actually went a long way in proving that The Allman Brothers could find a way forward without him.

thanks to American Songwriter