“High On The Plains”

(This is another in a series of essays on songs from ‘The Apothecary EP.‘)

A friend told me the other day that this sounded like a song that the Stones should’ve written and I thought that was about the best thing that could be said about that song – and a huge compliment.

I remember toying with the chorus for a while and ran it by another friend at Matchless Bar. She changed, “Happy hour’s been over for hours and I ain’t been happy for hours” to the much better “Happy hour’s been over for hours and I ain’t been happy for days.” Made the whole thing click. (Her blog is completely brilliant and she’s the most rock ‘n roll person I know.)

I was rehearsing it a few months after I wrote it and trying to figure out how the verses came together. I’d read a New Yorker story about methamphetamine use in Wyoming. I think that feature must’ve informed the song. That and Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed. Some riveting moments in both. But I wasn’t thinking consciously about either of them when I started writing the lyrics. It occurred to me much later that one of the characters might also be trying to dodge the draft.

In the end, I think the recording has four guitars on it: a Keith Richards Japanese Telecaster, an acoustic, slide guitar on a ’70s Japanese beater, and a loaner early 1970s Strat doing lead. Adam C. Blake laid down a funky drum beat under it.

Since then, it’s moved from Eb to G and Chuck Berry, Mike Campbell, and Chuck Prophet inadvertently inspired a new guitar solo section that Dan Kaplan solidified. I played this tune solo in open G at Good Stuff Grocery in Marshall, North Carolina with a slide. I’m thinking of laying it down again as a single along with “Cincinnati Holiday Inn.”

Those two songs seem to fit together: two sloppy rock & rollers about guys who are down on their luck and trying to drink their way out of it.

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