Old Folks Boogie
Music/Lyrics: Paul Barrere
Vocals: Mike; Page (backing)
Original Artist: Little Feat
Original Album: Time Loves a Hero (1977)
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2013-08-19
Getting old sucks...but it sure beats the alternative. The Paul Barrere penned track “Old Folks Boogie” which first appeared as the fifth track on Little Feat’s sixth album, Time Loves a Hero, explores some of the issues that may befall even the best of us as we age. Containing lyrics about pacemakers, wheelchairs, financial troubles, and erectile dysfunction it could be viewed as Barrere’s predecessor version of Jay-Z’s “30 Something.” Where Jay-Z embraced his being all grown up with a distinct swagger, on paper the Little Feat guitarist seems a little leery of his visions for the future as he approached the big 3-0. Though to give him some leeway for his reticence (which absolutely does not show through in his vocals), who possibly could have imagined back in 1977 that our pharmaceutical companies would develop Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, the myriad advances we have made in medical technology, or the great lengths our government would go to prevent foreclosure and bankruptcy within the ranks of the less wealthy baby boomers as they near retirement? Regardless of these safeguards, it is likely most of us have still experienced the discomfort of having our mind make a promise that our body couldn’t fulfill. Excess in all things can certainly be deadly; but as William Blake assured (“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”) and Hunter Thompson confirmed (“Anything worth doing, is worth doing right”), it can also be rewarding.
Unfortunately bearing no similarity to the homonymous blues classic by Al Simmons and Slim Green subsequently redone by Captain Beefheart, the studio recording of “Old Folks Boogie” is a loose funky-tonk wobble sung by Barrere that is really “keyed” by the efforts of Bill Payne. While ostensibly on their 1977 tour for Time Loves a Hero, Little Feat recorded, and subsequently released in March 1978, a live version of “Old Folks Boogie” that is way baggier in the pants yet manages to retain the flavor of Bill Payne’s tinkling of the ivories. However, those efforts are somewhat overshadowed by the very tasty slide guitar work of Lowell George.
When Phish covered the Waiting for Columbus version of “Old Folks Boogie” during their Halloween 2010 costume set, Mike’s vocal style was more in keeping with the reticence the lyrics contain. While Page showed he was equal to the task of matching Payne on the old 88, Trey’s sustain is absolutely no substitute for a slide. The supporting work by percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo, and Aaron Johnson, Stuart Bogie, Ian Hendrickson, Michael Leonhart and Eric Biondo on horns certainly provided the big band sound the song needed. As with many of the Waiting for Columbus tracks, “Old Folks Boogie” has yet to be played again. With any luck it can wait until I’m old...I’d rather live while I’m young.
Phish, ”Old Folks Boogie” – 10/31/10, Atlantic City, NJ