Every time I lay ears on “Dreams” by the Allman Brothers Band, it always sucks me right in, as it did last night as I was settling in for the evening.
“Dreams,” of course, is from the very first Allman Brothers Band album, which by extension is often regarded as the first “Southern Rock” album. This was before the subgenre was co-opted/truly defined by rednecks (incredibly talented ones) like Lynyrd Skynyrd, and later watered down by rednecks like Molly Hatchet (but more on them later.)
There was something dark, bluesy, swampy and just a bit psychedelic about that first Allmans platter, almost in the same way that the first Creedence album has a different feel from the rest of their work. I’ve never experienced twilight in the heat of summer in a Georgia swamp, but both sides of “The Allman Brothers Band” takes me right there.
“Dreams” was one of my perennial mix tape songs. I seemed to only have the ability to make really good mix tapes featuring more down-beat music, from spacey jams and ambient washes to shimmering acidic acoustic music. Most were labelled “Night Driving 1,” “Night Driving 2,” “Night Vibe…” and all of this before I even discovered Blue Oyster Cult’s “I Love The Night” (go figure).
If I associate one specific place and time with “Dreams,” it’s actually some bar where I heard that song in New York City at about 3am, because in New York City, bars are open at 3am. I will still a few months from legal drinking age at the time, however in New York in the 1990s that really didn’t matter. I was with some college friends as we were in town to see the Patriots lose to the Jets that afternoon in what was dubbed “Tuna Bowl II,” Bill Parcells’ second meeting with the Pats as the newly minted Jets coach.
Anyway, the dark bar and the music just seemed to fit, and it’s always stuck with me. Can’t say the same about whoever was QB for the Jets that afternoon. I could look it up, but I honestly don’t remember. At least we all remember Drew Bledsoe.
There are two famous covers of “Dreams.” One is by the late soul drummer/singer Buddy Miles who did some great arrangements a few Gregg Allman originals. The other is by the above-mentioned Molly Hatchet, which is basically the Buddy Miles arrangement with all the soul sucked out, and de-psychedelicized for your redneck listening pleasure.
Moral of today’s story: I’ve just never been into Molly Hatchet.