Battleship Chains by Georgia Satellites: Songs in the Key of Mutiny
I’m betting most people associate The Georgia Satellites with the hit song “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” Heck, even I had that single as a 45 RPM record. I remember it being a radio hit. It wasn’t until years later that I got introduced to any more of their work, and then a decade-and-a-half after that when one of their songs was reintroduced to me and helped me realize how much I liked it.
Cover Band Memories …
In the late nineties, I had a short stint as a rhythm guitarist and backup vocalist for a classic rock cover band. We played pretty regularly through a circuit of clubs and local events and the band was one of a handful in a community of musical groups that would circulate through these venues on a fairly even rotation. Naturally, many of the band members got to know each other, even within the spirit of healthy and respectful competition between them. There was one group in particular called the Third Wave which played edgier and harder rock than the band I was in, which was more pop-influenced. Third Wave’s singer, Glenn McKinnon, was a fantastic talent, a good guy, and a dynamic frontman.
I remember being out to see a Third Wave set at a local club one night. I don’t recall much else about what they did, except for them doing a wild, energetic rendition of a song that sounded very familiar but that I didn’t think I’d ever heard before. That song was Battleship Chains. I immediately went out and bought a Georgia Satellites CD so I could have a copy of the song, though I confess that I’d rather have had a good quality copy of Third Wave’s performance. Still, it’s a pretty basic song and a good illustration of how you only need a couple chords, a strong melody, and good energy and execution to create a really good time for about 3 minutes. Third Wave had nailed it, and their performance has stuck with me and still resonates almost two decades later.
A Tip Of the Cap
Ultimately, I left the band that I was in because continuously playing cover songs did not hold my interest. The popular thought was that you could not go into a club and play original music. I always challenged that notion. I didn’t think that you could go into a club and play poor original music. But I was always convinced that if your material is strong, and you juxtapose it with strong cover material to support and surround it, that it would fly. And so I set out to prove the point to myself and created a three-piece band that later got booked into that club and did four nights of performances. Ten or twelve of the songs of we played (of the 40 or 50 each night) were original songs. The rest were carefully chosen cover songs that fit the feel of the band that we had created. One of those songs was Battleship Chains.
Looking back, I will be the first to admit that we should not have even tried to have done that song. We were a three-piece, and to do even a basic song like Battleship Chains any justice you need two guitars. But, we did the song anyway and I remember that, at that time, Glenn was having a few health concerns and I recall dedicating the performance of the song to him and wishing for his good health.
Fast forward a decade and a half later, and I’m working away, thinking of songs that I will want to use as part of my Mutineer project. Part of the idea is to pay at least some tribute to the bands that I love and appreciate the most who have inspired me to explore my creativity and fulfill this goal. One of those bands, albeit much more recent, is the Danish hard rock outfit, Volbeat.
Earlier this year, I had pre-ordered their most recent CD, Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie (release this past June), but had not noticed the track listing. It wasn’t until the day of the release that I ran to my computer to download the album through iTunes that I realized there was a song on the record called Battleship Chains. Now, my oldest son is a big fan of Volbeat is well, and I had promised him I would not listen all the way through the record until I picked him up after school that day so that we could listen to it together. But when I saw that one of the tracks on the CD was called Battleship Chains, I found that my heartbeat quickened and I couldn’t wait to find out if it was The Georgia Satellites song or not.
Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie!
I was thrilled to find that Volbeat had done a dead-on rendition of what Georgia Satellites did. I was instantly transported back to the excitement of Third Wave’s performance, and the fun of discovering a tune that had not previously been part of my catalog.
When I picked my kids up that night, I did not start the Volbeat album at the beginning, with a terrific tune called The Devil’s Bleeding Crown. Instead, I put both boys in the car, exclaimed that Volbeat was back, and cranked the wailing opening blues guitar riff of Battleship Chains. There were instantly smiles all around and I knew at that moment that, although it is not an original Volbeat track, it’s the one that I will have to include in the mix somewhere as both a tip of the cap Volbeat for their inspiration, and an acknowledgement of those experiences of my past and the people who contributed that has led me to pursuing this goal today.