Ain't Gone Back to Barstow (c) 2009 Words, Music & Guitar by Lance Frank
Barstow was big during the hay day of rail travel. Now it is mostly known as a rest stop for motorist on their way to and from the entertainment meccas of Las Vegas and Los Angeles. I first learned of it during the early 1980s while working as a photo journalist in Vegas with Hollywood aspirations. I never lived there but it always seemed an appropriate metaphor for being stuck in the middle of nowhere physically, mentally or both.
I worked freelance Radio and TV in L.A. but never did make it in Hollywood. My "Barstow" was being stuck working as a 60/hr a week retail manager for 15 years. When I finally broke free to start my own Internet business it failed miserably. Bankrupt and on the verge of foreclosure I had to find some way to make money and I didn't want to go "Back to "Barstow." Unfortunately, I had to for a couple years until my real estate business was able to support me. For more about what I was think and feeling during this period listen to my tunes“Ben Hur’s Blues” and “Second Class Citizen Blues.”
An even greater contributing factor to my bankruptcy was the need for major kidney surgery at the time. I had never had major surgery before so questions of life, death, the existence of GOD, and the human condition were on my mind, not to mention a thorough review of the course of my own life. The companion video was taken on my last road trip to Vegas before the surgery. The sign posts along I-15 stand out like moral markers in the vast emptiness of the desert, itself a metaphor for existence. The symbolism of the "pillar of fire" should need no explanation. Yep. This was one of the darkest periods of my life if not the nadir.
When I first wrote the tune I had sold all my guitars to make ends meet, so the first version below was recorded acapella. When I was finally able to buy one of my guitars back, I was amazed that I was immediately able to play it without any effort at all. That’s probably because all the bits and pieces of it were still floating around in my head from playing all manner of blues and rock and roll tunes from Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” to Creams version of Albert Kings “Born Under A Bad Sign” to The Eagles “Life in The Fast Lane.”
The third verse begins with “Most of us live lives of quiet desperation...” and is a quote from Henry David Thoreau, but when I sing it I want to imitate Bob Dylan. I’m not sure why. It might be a secondary intuitive reference to Woody Guthrie who is said to have influenced Dylan and many other Pop Folk heroes. Guthrie was a champion of the working class during the great depression and most likely “rode the rails” through Barstow at one time or another. The rest of the Thoreau quote goes "...and die with the song still in them." Fortunately, I did not die from the kidney surgery or the heart attack I had some years later. I am glad to have been able to get this and my other songs out of me in time to share with you before my ultimate demise...whenever that turns out to be.