Nov 172023
lou barlow convoy

“Convoy” is one of those weird novelty #1 hits from the past that seem inexplicable to generations who weren’t alive when the song took off. Though I’m tempted to compare it to something like “Monster Mash,” that song at least resonates with children around Halloween. The CB radio culture of “Convoy” is utterly foreign to anyone who didn’t live through it. There were even movies (including one based on the song). Imagine in twenty or thirty years, a young person listening to a song celebrating the culture of Periscope or Clubhouse or some other app that is no longer popular. Now imagine that song is a spoken-word country song containing conversation snippets supposedly taken from the app, plus spoken verses, all voiced by a character from a recent bread commercial. Plus a chorus sung by commercial jingle singers. That’s “Convoy.”

Lou Barlow, most famously of Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh, and his wife Adelle have a podcast called Raw Impressions. For their weekly feature “mini-music-monday,” Barlow records songs, usually covers. For the most recent music episode, Barlow has covered “Convoy.”

This is a pretty faithful cover. Barlow does all Bill Fries’ voices and follows the format and temp of the song. (Bill Fries is the real name of C.W. McCall, the co-creat0r and performer of the character.) But he performs the song only on acoustic guitars and sings the group vocals on the chorus. He doesn’t have the same timbre of McCall, even with an accent he sounds more like Lou Barlow.

Though the performance is nowhere near as lo-fi as early Sebadoh, it’s still much closer to a home recording sound than the original song, which has an elaborate country arrangement. Despite the relative faithfulness of the approach, it’s very clearly filtered through the ears of a indie rock musician. And Barlow leans into the camp, but not so much that it sounds like he’s poking fun, just enough to appear to be enjoying himself. (He says “fucking” instead of “trucking” just to be clear he is enjoying himself.)

It’s a fun little nod to a very odd novelty hit, that could have only been a hit in the mid 1970s. And it’s much better than Homer Simpson’s cover.

Check out Lou Barlow’s list of his five favorite covers!

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