Randy Newman: Once a Rocker

Randy Newman once rocked quite convincingly on “Gone Dead Train,” a song that was included in the soundtrack to 1970’s notorious art film, Performance, and was – oddly enough – one that he himself did not write:

“Gone Dead Train”     Randy Newman     1969
–  Conceptual train video by Nicos  —

“Gone Dead Train” would also be released as the A-side of a Warner Brothers UK single; however, this version (reports Discogs.com contributor, “touwell“) is “completely different from the version that appeared on the Performance album – faster and more rocking.”

Written by Jack Nitzsche & Russ Titelman — Arranged & Produced by Jack Nitzsche
“Conducted” by Randy Newman

Randy Newman 45

Ben Fong-Torres sheds light on Russ Titelman’s role via Willin’:  The Story of Little Feat:

“Through [Phil] Spector, Titelman met the composer and arranger Jack Nitzsche, of “Lonely Surfer” fame, and worked with him on various film scores and recordings.  When Nitzsche began scoring Performance, Mick Jagger’s first acting vehicle, in 1969, he called Titelman to help out.  Together the two wound up writing ‘Gone Dead Train,’ which would include Ry Cooder on slide guitar and Randy Newman on vocals.”

Musician credits also include Jerry Scheff, Elvis Presley’s bassist, with organ work by the aforementioned Randy Newman.

There’s also this interview snippet from Timothy White’s The Russ Titelman Story courtesy of SpectoPop:

Q:  In 1969, you found yourself playing guitar on ‘Memo From Turner’, for Jack Nitzsche’s soundtrack to the Mick Jagger film, Performance.

A:  Actually, the core of the studio band on that record was Randy Newman, Ry Cooder and myself, and it was recorded in Los Angeles at Western Studios.  But Jagger wasn’t there during our sessions. The band Traffic had done a recording of ‘Memo From Turner’, but Jagger and Nitzsche didn’t like it. So we replaced their track, playing along to Jagger’s existing vocal and a click track. I played the Keith Richards-sounding “jing-a-jing” on rhythm guitar, and Ry Cooder did the slide guitar parts.

And then Jack and I wrote ‘Gone Dead Train’, and Randy Newman sang it, and we cut it live. They needed a song for the credits and Jack said he wanted to lyrically use all this voodoo and blues terminology for this story of this faded rock star, a burnt-out character who can’t get it up anymore. I saw the track part as Chuck Berry-like in feel but more raucous.

Covered by Crazy Horse on their 1971 Reprise album.

“Gone Dead Train” thankfully would merit inclusion in Rock Song Index:  The 7500 Most Important Songs for the Rock and Roll Era.

Pop the Cork:  This is the 23rd piece in Zero to 180 tagged as Film & TV Soundtracks.