Thursday, March 04, 2010

Johnny Yen's One-Hit Wonders: "Lake Shore Drive" by Alliota, Haynes and Jeremiah

My nursing clinicals this semester are at the University of Chicago, in the south side Hyde Park neighborhood (the neighborhood our president calls home when he's not in Washington, D.C.). It's a fifteen mile drive from my house, verses the two mile trek I had to Illinois Masonic last semester, but there is one redeeming factor: watching the sun rise out of Lake Michigan as I take Lake Shore Drive down to the hospital.

Lake Shore Drive, which runs along Lake Michigan, is in an elite group of roadways that have had hit songs written about them (Route 66, Ventura Highway are a couple that spring to mind. "Lake Shore Drive" was a hit for Aliotta Haynes and Jeremiah in 1971. Like the Beatles song "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds," many people have mistaken the song as a drug song (though partying is definitely a theme of the song). In Chicago, "LSD" is a nickname for Lake Shore Drive (or simply "The Drive.") Lake Shore Drive runs from Hollywood Avenue in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood ("It starts up north on Hollywood") down to the South side, ending a little south of the Hyde Park neighborhood. The song describes a night out partying-- the Gold Coast was a big party scene back in those days (the fabled Rush Street scene). The "Rat's up on to riches" refers to going from the long-gone Ratso's restaurant, in Lakeview (3415 N. Broadway) where the group would perform, to the Gold Coast neighborhood, still Chicago's wealthiest. The "pretty blue lights" refer to the old mecury-vapor lights that Chicago, like most cities, replaced with the orange sodium vapor lights in the late 1970's. The "snakin' on by" probably refers to the old "S-curve," which used to slow and snarl traffic-- I think the speed limit dropped to 15 miles an hour at that segment. It was straighted out in the 1980's, greatly reducing congestion at that point.

There's a nice explanation of the lyrics here:

http://www.mp3lyrics.org/a/aliotta-haynes-jeremiah/lake/

As I've mentioned, many people mistakenly thought this song was about the drug LSD. In the late seventies, I heard an interview with Aliota, Haynes and Jeremiah and they discussed this fallacy. They told the story of a radio station that told them that they wouldn't play the song because of its drug references, but they would play the b-side, "Snow Queen." The guys had a good laugh about this because "Snow Queen" was about cocaine.

One last note: most Chicagoans who have seen "When Harry Met Sally" have a good laugh. At the beginning of the movie, when Sally is catching a ride with Harry after graduating from the University of Chicago, they are driving south on Lake Shore Drive past the loop; they are driving toward, not away from the school. I always joke that they must have forgotten something at the school and had to run back.

Here's a nice vid I found on Youtube that has the song and some imagery about Chicago's iconic roadway.



Lake Shore Drive
There’s a road I’d like to tell you 'bout,
Lives in my hometown.
Lake Shore Drive the road is called,
And it’ll take you up or down.
From Rat's on up to riches,
Fifteen minutes you can fly.
Pretty blue lights along the way ,
Help you ride on by.
And the blue light’s shinin' with a heavenly grace,
Help you ride on by.

[Chorus:]
And there ain’t no road just like it,
Anywhere I’ve found.
Runnin' south on Lake Shore Drive,
Headin' into town.
Just slippin' on by on LSD,
Friday night trouble bound.

[Verse 2:]
It starts up north from Hollywood,
Water on the drivin' side.
Concrete mountains rearin' up ,
Throwin' shadows just about five.
Sometimes you can smell the green,
If your mind is feelin' fine.
There ain’t no finer place to be,
Then runnin' Lake Shore Drive.
And there’s no piece of mind or place, you see,
Ridin' on Lake Shore Drive.

[Chorus:]
And there ain’t no road just like it,
Anywhere I’ve found.
Runnin' south on Lake Shore Drive,
Headin' into town.
Just slippin' on by on LSD,
Friday night trouble bound.

It’s Friday night and you’re lookin' clean.
Too early to start the rounds.
A ten-minute drive from the Gold Coast back,
Makes you sure you’re pleasure bound.
And it’s four o’clock in the mornin',
And all the people have gone away.
Just you and your mind and Lake Shore Drive,
Tomorrow is another day.
And the sun shines fine in the mornin' time.
Tomorrow is another day.

And there ain’t no road just like it,
Anywhere I’ve found.
Runnin' south on Lake Shore Drive,
Headin' into town.
Just snakin' on by on LSD,
Friday night trouble bound.

2 comments:

Erik Donald France said...

That's really cool! There's also a Lake Shore Drive in Detroit, or the Grosse Pointes, a la Grosse Pointe Blank and Gran Torino ;->

Churlita said...

I was wondered if that song was about LSD.