Terry Anderson is one of my all-time favorite songwriters. Yup. Right there with folks such as Ray Davies and Bruce Springsteen. My own imperfect description would be Terry is equal parts Paul Westerberg, Chuck Berry and Nick Lowe with a dash of Ronnie Lane tossed in for good measure. How is that working for you?
If that weren’t enough, his band, The Olympic Ass-Kickin Team are a world class rock n roll outfit. Roadhouse style if you will. My own imperfect description of the OAK Team would be equal parts NRBQ, Dash Rip Rock and Rockpile with a pint of Ian McLagan poured in for good measure.
If you are interested in learning more, and I know you are, the following list is a map to help start your journey down the path to rock n roll salvation. This is NOT a comprehensive list by any stretch. Terry has close to one hundred songs that could be deemed “essential” by one standard or another. They are also spread out over time and space so you may have to hunt some stuff down on your own. With that said, let’s get on with the 22 songs. Enjoy!
Thunderbird (Terry Anderson and The Olympic Ass-Kickin Team)
On Watershed’s recent trip to perform in Raleigh, I took some quality van time to catch up on reading words by Hanif Abdurraqib. The Columbus-born author recently spoke to my Son’s creative writing class in Ohio and professor Joe Oestreich’s class at Coastal Carolina, so it appeared the universe wanted me to get off my ass and check this out.
It took about a paragraph to realize Hanif is super-talented and it felt good to not only agree with his Springsteen/NBA takes but also learn about why Chance the Rapper matters to my son. There is an age and culture difference between Hanif and myself but we have enough in common that I can follow the thread without feeling hopelessly out of touch. Now that I think about it that pretty much sums up what it is like to be the father of a teenage boy, too.
As the van was humming down I-77, I got to wondering that if Hanif and I were hanging out, would he appreciate the beauty of these lyrics the way I do?
“Why don’t you come over here and help me drink this Thunderbird?
Why don’t you come over…….. help me drink this Thunderbird?
We don’t even need a corkscrew
We don’t need no fancy glass
Drink straight from the bottle if you want to
Or you can stay home and kiss my ass
You can now
Why don’t you come over here and help me drink this Thunderbird?”
That’s poetry to me. Listen to this!
I Can Give You Everything (Etta James - Love’s Been Rough on Me)
Written by Terry Anderson, covered by the legendary Etta James on her record Love’s Been Rough on Me. Nuff said, eh?
Battleship Chains (Georgia Satellites)
Three chords and a cloud of dust? Pfffttt…. What is ya? Some kinda Einsteeen? Two chords will do just fine thank you very much. Yup. TWO chords. C and G. That kind of economy makes the Ramones look like Yes. Oh, and the chorus don't bore us though it never rhymes. A recurring theme I might add.
“You’ve got me tied down with Battleship Chains
Fifty foot long and a two ton anchor”
Think this is easy? YOU try it.
Gambled and Lost (More Smooth Jazz and Sweet Sweet Jams)
One of my favorite opening lines:
“Well I took that money you gave me and I gambled and lost. And I hope you are not too mad. But I had fun and if I won, it would have been worth the cost. But I gambled and lost”
“That’s how they make their money, off of fools like me. If we were always winners honey, how much fun would that be?”
You Know Me (Terry Anderson and The Olympic Ass-Kickin Team)
Before I keep going on about what a great songwriter Terry is, let’s talk about the fact that his band, The Olympic Ass-Kickin Team are as a good of a rock n roll unit to ever grace a stage with a sticky floor. In fact, the first time Watershed opened for the OAK Team in Macon, Georgia, Ricki C and I were watching them rip through two sets of raucous rock n roll, jaws agape when I turned to Ricki and asked, “Are these guys better than NRBQ?” Without hesitating Ricki responded, “I saw NRBQ live in their prime two or three times. These guys fucking destroy NRBQ.” Turns out Terry sometimes writes songs with Al Anderson of NRBQ and the two have played together numerous times. Enjoy the promo clip below introducing the OAK Team members Jack, Dave and Greg along with a song written by Terry and Al.
I Love You Period (Love Songs For the Hearing Impaired)
Having already scored a hit with Battleship Chains on the Georgia Satellites platinum effort, Dan Baird went back to Terry for the first single from his Rick Rubin/Brendan O'Brien produced solo debut. I sent Dan a question about how this all came about and he was very nice to shoot me the following response.
Take it Dan..
Here goes, Terry and I met years ago, 82, 83? Around there. He had The Fabulous Knobs and they were doing well in the Carolinas, we were doing ok in ATL, opened for each other and just got along. I left the Sats in 84 and played with Terry, Jack Cornell (still his bassist) and David Enloe. Called ourselves The Woodpeckers. The Sats thing called me back in 85, I left, and they changed their name to The Woods. Yes, the pecker had up and quit on em.
Couple years later, Bill Lloyd invited me to help try and get them a deal doing some demos here in Nashville. Period was one of those songs. I played it for Brendan O’Brien, he said get the clearance, I called Terry, he said ok. It’s an infectious song. Terry is great at that. We have about the same range, TA gets a little higher than I can, so we sing each other’s shit well. We really started writing together for that Love Songs record and have kept it up, off and on through today.
He’s a fast writer, I love that. Keeps the ball in the air. - Dan Baird
“I love you period
Do you love me question mark
Please please exclamation point
I want to hold you in parenthesis”
If that isn’t freaking genius I don’t know what is. Also, surely the only use of “in parenthesis” in rock n roll history.
Watch this live version featuring our pal Slim Dunlop on slide guitar. Terry played drums on this tour for a stretch but does not appear in this video. Also, Terry co-wrote four songs on this record but the whole thing is brilliant. One of the best rock n roll records forever and ever. Find it. Dig it.
Sunday Dress (Terry Anderson and The Olympic Ass Kickin’ Team)
Pound for pound my favorite Terry song. A simple blast of Faces-esque rock n roll. Terry paints the picture of a girl coming over to dine with his family and the fact she may be out of his league.
“Come over after church on Sunday
And we will sit out by the Oak
I’d love to take you to a matinee
But I’m just too broke
You’ll be a picture of an angel
As you walk up to my gate
I’ll tell mama that you are coming
Just step on in and fix your plate”
If Thunderbird ain’t poetry than this has to be getting close.
Mr. Busdriver Man (I’ll Drink to That)
The flipside to the characters in Sunday Dress is the hapless protagonist in this song begging the busdriver to pull over because he just saw the woman of his dreams. Terry is singing is his affected southern drawl and riding a drum shuffle throughout, I’m smiling as I type this. Chuck Berry would be proud.
“Mr. Busdriver man, this is serious.
I’ll open up this winder. Jump right out of this bus
Man for goodness sakes put your foot on the brakes ain’t going to tell you again”
Yesterday Clyde Virginia (You Don’t Like Me)
I believe this is one of Joe Oestreich’s favorite Terry songs. Since we already heard from Dan Baird, why don’t we ask my Watershed band-mate and accomplished author what he thinks makes Terry so special. Take it away Joe…….
Terry Anderson is among the greatest songwriters in rock history. Why? While most songwriters are lucky if they get a handle on even one of the following three elements, Terry is one of the very few who have mastered them all.
1. Lyrics: Not just the content, but the language. In terms of quirky, specific detail and inventive wordplay, Terry is the heir apparent to Chuck Berry. The dude is obviously having fun putting the words and rhymes together. See “Killin’ Down in Dillon” and “Purple GTO.”
2. Melody: It’s not a song if you can’t sing along. Terry combines Berry-grade lyrics with McCartney-grade tunefulness. He may get classified as Southern rock/roots-rock/alt-country/Americana, but his songs are much catchier than most examples of those genres. Ultimately Terry is writing pop tunes, and here I mean “pop” in the original Tin Pan Alley/Brill Building sense. In this respect he's in a league with NRBQ's Adams/Anderson/Spampinato triumvirate. See “Yesterday Clyde Virginia” and “You Know Me.”
3. Wit: Clever social commentary. Terry is damn near as good as Ray Davies when it comes to adopting an ironic persona in order to shine a light on how we’re living and the silly stuff we’re doing. Somehow, without (overly) mocking us, he exposes us for the ridiculous fuckers we are. See “Church Folks Comin” and “Internettin.”
Listen to the Terry Anderson catalog, and it’s clear that although he takes the craft of songwriting seriously, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Plus, like all great pop songwriters, he’s brutally efficient. He gets more done in three verses than Bob Dylan does in six. In fact, to paraphrase Steve Earle’s famous quote about Townes Van Zandt, Terry Anderson might just be the best songwriter in the world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s (and Steve Earle’s and Townes Van Zandt’s) coffee table in my tennis shoes and say that. - Joe Oestreich
Church Folks Coming (I’ll Drink to That)
“Hurry up hurry up finish that beer, we got church folks comin’
Hide that liquor bottle under here, church folks comin’
Put those porno videos in the drawer with your panty hose
We’ve got church folks coming, we’ve got church folks coming”
Lost Your Number (National Champions)
So melodic. So simple. Kinda sad.
And just when the tune can’t get any catchier, as usual Terry has one more trick up his sleeve. This song could have rested on its laurels but he squeezes one more hook in at the end. That’s a tell-tale sign of hard work and dedication to the craft. Anything that sounds this effortless took lots of effort. Listen to the phrasing..
“Give me one more chance it’s just an unfortunate circumstance. Lost your number” X 2
Never Get Enough of You (Jimmy’s Arcade)
So you never got to see the Faces? Well crank this mutha up and go see the OAK Team. And quit being such a baby while you are at it. And buy me a beer.
Man, That Rocks (What Else Can Go Right)
Coffee shop conversation:
“Colin, what was that movie where Little Richie got into that fight with Keith Richards?”
“I’m pretty sure you mean Chuck Berry.”
“No, it was Little Richie the guitar player. Are you sure?,
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was Chuck Berry. And it’s not Little Richie, it’s Little Richard.”
Killin’ Down in Dillon (I’ll Drink to That)
I first saw this song performed by Terry with The Yahoos at SXSW following seeing Marah and Little Richard earlier the same day. Wow. What a great day.
When I hear this, the first thing I notice is the kick drum. As legendary Raleigh soundman Jac Cain told us way back in the day, “Nobody hits the one on the kick like Terry Anderson. He has a world class groove.” The second thing I notice is another great story told in three verses. An irate mother hellbent on stopping the wedding of her daughter.
“The boy momma said looked just like Arnold Schwarzenegger
She’s getting married to the first one dumb enough to take her
Went she went into her bedroom and discovered she was missing
She grabbed her sawed off shotgun and a box of ammunition
If they tie the knot there will be a killin down and dillion”
I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, Colin, that’s all fine and dandy, but did the OAK Team ever perform this song outside during a freak spring snowstorm in Raleigh?” Actually, yes, I had just opened the show at Sadlack’s and shot this footage to mark the historical nature of the event.
Willie Mays (National Champions)
Many great American songwriters eventually take a crack at a baseball song. As usual, Terry’s contribution to the cannon has a slightly different take on the National Pastime.
“Standing at the plate all covered in cream
And everybody is calling you the home run king
Well you made a few good plays
But you have seen your better days
And you ain’t half as cool as Willie Mays”
BTW - “The Cream” was the preferred steroid of choice for many athletes including Barry Bands. Read all about it in the excellent book Game of Shadows.
$100 a Week (Terry Anderson and The Olympic- Ass Kickin’ Team)
I don’t remember the name of the venue but Watershed was opening for OAK Team and they played this song for soundcheck and folks got up and started dancing. You don’t normally see people dancing during soundchecks. Also - Caitlin Cary was the bartender that night. She was very nice.
Another great opening line:
“Damn that woman drinkin’ all my liquor, out the door I’m gonna kick her”
Internettin’ (Jimmy’s Arcade)
Try not to smile listening to this one. I dare you.
“Internettin’, Internettin’ my ass off
Dot dot clickety com, look at that naked woman
Dot cot clickety net, get anything that you want to get”
37 Miles in Reverse (I’ll Drink to That)
Biggie’s favorite Terry song. Okay, maybe tied with Ridin’ Around. Yes, it’s about driving your friends around backwards. Biggie loves to drive.
“We got hit from behind, it was a head on collision”
Listen to this! (Probably Dave B. on drums.)
Whether or Not (When the Oak Team Comes to Town)
Now, the fact that Terry and the OAK Team are genuinely great guys doesn’t need to be a part of this discussion. However, they are genuinely great guys. For example, when I was helping Erica Blinn get her first ep together (along with Mike Landolt) we were having a really tough time locking down musicians to play on the tracks. She had no track record and our budget was close to zero. Okay, it WAS zero.
Anyway, I noticed Terry and the boys had a couple off days while touring and would they interested helping a young rock n roller get her start by backing her in the studio? I suspected it was a match made in heaven, but they came in on nothing more than good faith and knocked out six songs in two days, effectively jump starting Erica Blinn’s career. I encourage you to find her self-titled ep and give it a listen. That’s the OAK Team you hear and it crushes.
And she covered this Terry classic, Whether or Not.
Gityouassupdaroad (When The Oak Team Comes to Town)
Do bands North of the Ohio River write songs like this?
“I pulled up on your jalopy when I got over the hill
Running twenty miles an hour below the posted speed
You almost got us killed
Get your ass up the road”
Boyfriend 2 (When The OAK Team Comes to Town)
In his songs, Terry rarely gets the girl. My teenage self can relate. That sort of thing sticks with you for life.
“I was taught at a very early age that it’s better to share
So spread your love around but not to thin because I want to be your boyfriend
Please let me be your boyfriend
Got guys hanging all over you
Let me be your boyfriend too”
Purple GTO (Terry Anderson & The Olympic Ass- Kickin’ Team)
Wow. Maybe the best Terry song? Kid wants car. Dad won’t buy it for him. They strike a deal where kid gets car with conditions. This song has everything on display. Brilliant lyrics, Terry’s unstoppable kick drum and the full power of The Olympic Ass-Kickin’ Team at its disposal.
OK, now you been learned but good. So go and spread the word about Terry Anderson & The Olympic Ass-Kickin Team. Find the songs. Buy the songs Become a fan and make a new fan. I could post fifty more songs but I’ll leave you with some mystery so you can find your favorite. Long live rock.
Colin Gawel plays both solo and in the band Watershed. He founded Pencilstorm too. He really needs to quit f-ing around with this story and mop the floors at Colin’s Coffee. To learn more google Colin Gawel.