The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #27241   Message #3390321
Posted By: GUEST,mark p. former guitar student
15-Aug-12 - 01:49 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Flight 641 (Lawrence Hammond)
Subject: Lyr Add: FREIGHT YARD THUNDER (Lawrence Hammond)
in 1973 and 1974, when Hammond was in town, I would drop by for a guitar lesson at his Oakland house. I learned a lot of stuff and technique from him, but also a lot about how songs and chords are put together, stuff I still use every day. I kept in touch with him intermittently up to about 1982 and even looked him up once in Boston during a visit (he was in med school at the time). After that, I lost touch and really have wondered for years what became of him. One day while I was waiting for him to finish up some stuff before a lesson I leafed through a pile of his song lyrics. Most of these were familiar to me from his shows, but there was one called "Freight Yard Thunder" that I had never heard, so I asked him to play it for me. I can't completely remember the tune to it now, but it was in a minor key and had a driving rhythm with a lot of percussive stuff from the right hand. I never heard him do it with his band, but he DID play it one night after he had dissolved the Whiplash Band, and was playing in Santa Barbara with a string bass player and a mandolin player. I asked him at that lesson if I could copy down the words, and believe it or not I still have them, so here is this rare and unknown song:


There's thunder tonight in the freight yard.
I hear them shuffling' em 'round
All night it drums in my restless sleep,
makes me groan and toss around.
Must be a hundred men like me lyin' sleepless
in the seedy part of Abilene,
listening to the freight yard thunder rollin'
out on the moonlit plains,

Hot cinder smell down the window well
on a sweat-stained bunk in the Railroad Hotel.
In a room I've been sharin' with a closed-mouth gent
who stares all night at the ceiling vent.
Maybe he's runnin' from the laws he broke,
like I'm running' from the words she spoke
that keep on repeating like an evil joke
through the freight yard thunder and the diesel smoke

Freight yard thunder...
they're makin' up my train.
And I just wonder,
will I ever ride away all my pain?
I keep thinking' there's more to life,
keep finding' there's a whole lot less.
But there's got to be more than this freight yard thunder
that's all that I got left.

Mama died when she born'd me in a roundhouse up north.
When the 2 AM rolled by my crib would skate across the floor.
Left home when I was 14 with the north wind at my back,
the same year that my Pa was killed lyin' drunk across the track.
The rest is nothin' else, just a rumble and a whistle,
one more town on down the line.
In my dreams, I'm always caught there half-way cross the trestle
with a fast freight screaming' up behind

(repeat chorus)

Gus McDill he's the meanest bull who walks the yard.
His horns are cruel and his hooves are hard.
He broke my hands 10 years ago when he caught me on a train.
I used to pick the Wildwood Flower but I'll never play again
That guitar was the only thing I loved like some old friend.
Now the petals of the Wildwood Flower are scattered in the wind.
And when I heard those words you spoke something broke again.
It doesn't even matter now just how the story ends.

Freight yard thunder
They're makin' up my train.
And I just wonder
will I ever ride away all my pain?
I keep thinkin' there's more to life,
keep finding' there's a whole lot less.
There's just got to be more than this freight yard thunder
that's all that I got left.

I always thought this song sounded more like something Mad River would have done later in their brief career. It has a sort of stormy brooding tone that would have suited them well. Anyway, it was a real find to happen on this Mudcat site after so long with no info. Glad I could add to the mix!