Hartley: Rockin’ the state of Ohio, Sloopy-style
I’m With Stupid
Fans of Rick “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” Derringer will be delighted to know that the song “Hang On Sloopy” recently passed the Ohio House of Representatives in its bid to become Ohio’s official state rock song. A measure to recognize the song as such, sponsored by someone who must be about 80 years old, passed the House by a margin of 82-13, which leaves just the Ohio Senate to go before the song is permanently enshrined. It also shows that there is evidently a dire lack of young people in the Ohio House.
For those of you who didn’t know, including me, Derringer, then just 17 years old and known as Ricky Dean Zehringer, was the lead singer of the band The McCoys, which had a No. 1 hit with “Hang on Sloopy” in 1965. For those of you who also didn’t know, including me, “Hang On Sloopy” is apparently associated with Ohio because the Ohio State University marching band plays it on the field during halftime of OSU football games.
I don’t mean to disrespect Derringer and I know football is big in Ohio, but there has to be a rock song more closely associated with Ohio than an ancient pop ditty performed by a college marching band. “Ohio,” performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, leaps immediately to mind, but I suppose that one’s a little dark, what with the “four dead in Ohio” and all that.
Another song that comes to mind is The Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone,” which has a refrain of “A, O, way to go Ohio,” but that one’s a little dark, too. You may remember that the lyrics are about pretty countrysides “paved down the middle by a government that had no pride.” Actually, when you think about it, compared to those two songs, maybe a song with the lyrics “Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town,” isn’t so bad after all.
But even still, if the idea is to honor a band from Ohio and a famous song that’s not about Ohio, I think they should go with “Shout,” by Cincinnati’s Isley Brothers, which has the advantages of being much more famous, much more positive and even older than “Hang on Sloopy,” having first hit the charts in 1959.
Anyway, Sloopy’s potential enshrinement over the more-deserving “Ohio” and others got me thinking about other states that could use state rock songs. Right now, only Oklahoma has an official one — “Do You Realize??” by Oklahoma City’s The Flaming Lips — but Washington has an unofficial one with “Louie Louie” by Richard Berry, a singer and songwriter from Extension, Louisiana.
I’m not sure what “Louie Louie” has to do with Washington, as the lyrics are about sailing to Jamaica, but people sing it at fraternity parties when they’re drunk, so it can’t be all bad. Personally, I think Squeeze’s “Black Coffee in Bed” would have been a more appropriate choice for the spawning ground of Starbucks, but who am I to say?
North Dakota, which has had precious few rock songs written about it and produced few musicians of note beyond Peggy Lee and Lawrence Welk, will of course be tough to pair with a song. So will South Dakota, for similar reasons. In light of that, I nominate “Is There Anybody Out There?” by Pink Floyd as an official song for both Dakotas.
Obviously, Alabama should adopt “Sweet Home Chicago” by Mississippi’s Robert Johnson. There’s really no other logical choice. Alabama just needs to make sure it honors the version of “Sweet Home Chicago” done by England’s Foghat to give the song its proper rock ’n’ roll credentials.
Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware can share “Short People Got No Reason to Live” by Randy Newman, and Newman’s long-suffering, holier-than-thou home state of California can have “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” by Kermit the Frog.
New Jersey has actually delved into these waters before, having nominated Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” for some honor, only to relent after someone noticed that in the song, the Boss says of some New Jersey town, “It’s a death trap. It’s a suicide rap. We got to get out while we’re young.”
I think New Jersey should own its stigma, though, and double down on such talk by nominating “We Gotta Get out of This Place” by The Animals in addition to “Born to Run.” It would make a hell of a lot more sense than Washington honoring “Louie Louie.”
Todd Hartley loves Rick Derringer’s misuse of commas in the names of his two biggest hits. To read more or leave a comment, please visit http://zerobudget.net.
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