Keep on Movin’ – Green on Red
Keep on Movin’
Here’s a road song that captures rhythm, joy, despair and rootlessness of roaming the interstates. From the opening strums of the guitar, this music keeps pushing the pedal, drums, piano, and propulsive guitar flying down the highway all lashed together by lead singer Dan Stuarts careening vocals. The pulse builds throughout the song until it explodes in a frenzy of ringing guitars, clashing cymbals and pounding piano. Call it cowboy rock without all the cowboy clichés: a man on the road compulsively moving. The song has a wiry and rugged sound as if putting music to the Arizona desert from where the band hailed, think rattlesnakes and endless stretches of blacktop.
The chorus makes plain the deal:
Me, I got a keep on moving
I don’t think much about what I’m losing
That’s Chuck Prophet’s guitar looping around the driving percussion and Stuart’s unique voice. He’s the guy in the bar late at night who turns to you and says ”Listen,” and you understand more than anything in the world the urgent need to listen to whatever he’s about to say.
The first verse captures the spirit of restlessness, exhaustion and freak show circumstances that constant travelling brews up:
First time I saw Boston town
Been driving three days into a strong wind
Don’t know where I’ve been
This ugly brute of a man
Is telling me to play one more song
You can’t go home
You get in the car, van or truck and keep driving because this ain’t home and you can’t stay so maybe somewhere down the road will be better, even if, in the end, it is the road itself that offers the only solace. Stuck in Boston, the singer knows he needs to escape, needs to put some miles behind him. He sings, “They say I went crazy one day,” and doesn’t deny the charge, doesn’t pony up any cheap explanations:
The road does funny things to a man
Churns up his mind
He can’t understand
I can’t understand
When Stuart sings that final line, you know how lost he feels. In that moment, he’s not a singer working for a record company or performing for an audience, he’s confessing and begging for help from something larger than himself.
Sometimes you can even think you found home, in this song that’s Austin, Texas:
First time I saw Austin town
I knew I had to live there one day
Find me a rocking chair in the shade
Of course, for the restless spirit, settling down never offers perfect peace. The last verse closes with Stuart recognizing what propels him to keep moving:
Me & Javier will drink away our fears
I’ve got so many fears
So call up “Keep on Movin’,” crank it loud and join the train as it blows through town.
You can listen to “Keep on Movin’” here. To hear the recorded version of Time Ain’t Nothin’ from the No Free Lunch EP, lick here. Here’s a live recording from 1985 that captures the band in fine form, which was not always the case. (I saw them open for the Replacements in New York in 1987 and the bands seemed to compete to prove which was the drunkest). For a recording from a 1987 Spanish TV show, click here.
This band began life as the Serfers in the Tucson, Arizona punk scene of the late 1970’s and came into their own as Green on Red in Los Angeles during the early 1980’s. They are forever linked to the Paisley Underground sound, so named because they veered away from the more violent, nihilistic L.A. punk scene (think Black Flag) towards what we today might call alternative or Alt-Country. That scene included the Dream Syndicate, the Long Ryders and the Bangles. Several members of those groups recorded a glorious one-off called the Lost Weekend as the fictitious band Danny and Dusty with Dan Stuart and Steve Wynn from the Dream Syndicate playing the lead roles. While some early recordings showed some signs of psychedelia, Green on Red clearly evolved to become a gutsy, country-tinged, wild rock band. You can check the blog piece on Danny and Dusty’s “Song for the Dreamers” here and catch a video here.
Green on Red’s line up peaked around 1985:
Dan Stuart – Vocals
Chris Cacavas – Keyboards
Jack Waterson – Bass
Alex MacNicol – Drums
Chuck Prophet – Guitars
Another nearly great band, perhaps they came too early as they would fit nicely in the alt-country scene – though the drink and drugs (Dan Stuart wandered the world both chasing and running from his heroin addiction) and strident anti-commercial attitude didn’t help. Here’s Chuck Prophet explaining how he joined the band:
“I was in a band that got thrown on the bill with these ‘Paisley dudes’ at a place in Oakland called Ruthies In. My first impression was that they looked like guys who should be operating the rides at a carnival. They played and it blew my mind. It was chaotic as hell but really entertaining and musical. And the songs were there! All that narrative stuff like ‘Old Chief’. It was funny and sad, and I dug the shit out of it. It’s hard to imagine how unique it seemed at the time… Later, I was in L.A. and I asked Jack to put me on the guest list. When I showed up, he just put a guitar in my hands. I started living on his couch.”
The band held together for a few albums, most notably:
- Green on Red (EP, Down There, 1982)
- Gravity Talks (Slash, 1983)
- Gas Food Lodging (Enigma, 1985)
- No Free Lunch (EP, Mercury, 1985)
- The Killer Inside Me (Mercury, 1987)
Band members split up, Stuart vanished and Green on Red seemed like one more dead band. When Stuart resurfaced, he and Chuck Prophet hooked up to write some songs and record a few albums under the name Green on Red. Those albums include:
You can learn about it about the band at their website. There’s also a neat fan site here. Chuck Prophet has released a half dozen or so solo albums with some fun and intriguing songs. You can find out more at his website.
Chuck Prophet sums up his time in Green on Red this way: “We broke a lot of rules and never looked back. And I’ll tell you, I sure learned how to drink and how to sleep sitting up! It was a good run!”