By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on September 24, 2022)
I raked the leaves on our front lawn
It took all afternoon.
I started at ‘round half-past one
and said, “I’ll be done soon.”
But once I saw how more leaves fell
Each time I made a pile,
I quickly saw this outdoor chore
Was going to take a while.
And so I did what my dad said
A winner does to win:
I studied that great pile of leaves,
And then I jumped right in.
– “Raking Leaves”, children’s poem by Shel Silverstein
Einstein (that smarty pants) was right. Each year passes faster than the previous. You can run (as Pink Floyd observed) to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking; racing around to come up behind you again. To wit…The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older; shorter of breath and one day closer to death.
Don’t you hate that?
Anyway, since the Fall Equinox has raced around and come up behind us again, I thought I might rake through my music collection and curate a pile of autumnal tunes for your dining and leaf-blowing pleasure.
Let’s jump right in!
“Autumn Almanac” – The Kinks
Released as a single in the UK in 1967, Ray Davies’ fond sense memory of the Muswell Hill neighborhood of North London where he grew up recalls The Beatles’ “Penny Lane”.
From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar
When the dawn begins to crack
It’s all part of my autumn almanac
Breeze blows leaves of a musty-coloured yellow
So I sweep them in my sack
Yes, yes, yes, it’s my autumn almanac
“Forever Autumn” – Justin Hayward
This lovely tune, featuring a lead vocal by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues was a highlight of Jeff Wayne’s 1978 double LP rock musical adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.
“Harvest Moon” – Neil Young
This is the title track from Young’s eponymous 1992 LP (a sort of sequel to 1972’s Harvest), which won a Juno award (Canada’s equivalent to a Grammy) for Album of the Year.
“Indian Summer” -Dream Academy
The Dream Academy’s most wistful and transporting song is best appreciated with a good set of headphones. Drift away…
It was the time of year just after the summer’s gone
When August and September just become memories of songs
To be put away with the summer clothes
And packed up in the attic for another year
We had decided to stay on for a few weeks more
Although the season was over now the days were still warm
And seemed reluctant to five up and hand over to winter for another year
“Inner Garden I” – King Crimson
Contrary to what you may assume, not every track by this venerable prog-rock outfit takes up half an album side; some of their best compositions say all they need to say with surprising brevity.
Autumn has come to rest in her garden
Come to paint the trees with emptiness
And no pardon
So many things have come undone
Like the leaves on the ground
And suddenly she begins to cry
But she doesn’t know why…
“Leaf and Stream” – Wishbone Ash
This compelling, melancholic track is an unexpected palate cleanser sandwiched between a couple of epic numbers on the Ash’s best album, 1972’s Argus (which I wrote about here).
Find myself beside a stream of empty thought,
Like a leaf that’s fallen to the ground,
And carried by the flow of water to my dreams
Woken only by your sound.
“Leaves in the Wind” -Back Street Crawler
Back Street Crawler was a short-lived group formed in 1975 by the late great guitarist Paul Kossoff after he left Free. Sadly, by the time their 2nd album 2nd Street was released in 1976, Kossoff was dead at 25 (lending his mournful guitar fills on this track even more poignancy).
“Moondance”– Van Morrison
The evocative title track from Morrison’s classic 1970 LP remains one of his signature tunes.
Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
“November” -Tom Waits
This song is a tad unsettling, yet oddly beautiful. Not unlike Waits’ voice. Dig the theremin.
It only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That’s the color of bone
With just a piano and vocal, this was an uncharacteristically minimalist arrangement for U2 at this stage of their career (from the band’s eponymous 1981 album) with only two verses:
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care?
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on
“Ramble On”-Led Zeppelin
Arguably the One Autumnal Song to Rule Them All, with all its wistfulness and stirrings of wanderlust. Only don’t try to make any sense of the Gollum reference-it’ll make you crazy.
Leaves are falling all around
It’s time I was on my way
Thanks to you I’m much obliged
For such a pleasant stay
But now it’s time for me to go
The autumn moon lights my way
For now I smell the rain
And with it pain
And it’s headed my way…
“September Gurls” – Big Star
Founded in 1971 by singer-guitarist Chris Bell and ex-Box Tops singer/guitarist Alex Chilton, Big Star is one of the seminal power pop bands, and this is one of their most defining songs.
“Summer’s Almost Gone” – The Doors
From the Doors’ 1968 album Waiting For the Sun. Haunting, with Jim Morrison in fine form.
Morning found us calmly unaware
Noon burn gold into our hair
At night, we swim the laughin’ sea
When summer’s gone
Where will we be?
“Time of No Reply” – Nick Drake
Gone much too soon, his sad short life was as enigmatic as the amazing catalog he left behind.
Summer was gone and the heat died down
And Autumn reached for her golden crown
I looked behind as I heard a sigh
But this was the time of no reply
The sun went down and the crowd went home
I was left by the roadside all alone
I turned to speak as they went by
But this was the time of no reply
“Urge for Going”– Joni Mitchell
You thought I forgot this one, didn’t you? Luck of the alphabet. It feels redundant to label any Joni Mitchell song as “genius”, but it’s hard to believe this came from the pen of a 22 year-old.
I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
And all trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go
I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown