In Not Fade Away, we take a look at the legacy of some of the greatest albums of the past few decades – some iconic, some lesser known – as they celebrate significant anniversaries. Here, we focus on Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s debut, ‘Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd,’ which turns 40 this week.
Calling a genre “southern rock” is a bit redundant, if you ask Gregg Allman, whose group, the Allman Brothers Band, is part of the movement. His feeling was that most rock music comes from south of the Mason-Dixon anyway, so the geographical qualifier is unnecessary. But if, like many rock fans, you do buy into the idea of “southern rock” — an unpretentious, working class, guitar and piano driven brand of rock music primary played by guys whose long hair just about covered their rednecks — you can make the argument that ground zero is right here, on 1973’s Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd.
Think of it like this: Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin preceded Black Sabbath, but Sabbath is attributed with creating heavy metal with their 1970 debut. Similarly, even though the Allmans and ZZ Top had already released some classic albums by ’73, the aforementioned were more like blues bands making rock music. With Lynyrd Skynyrd and Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, the south had its own radio and arena-ready act.
Let’s get “Freebird” out of the way first. Along with Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven,” it was one of the epic deep-ballad-that-morphs-into-deep-rocker songs that dominated the radio in the ’70s and continues to be a staple on classic rock stations to this day. Depending on where you sit, “Freebird” either symbolizes everything you love or everything you hate about Skynyrd and ’70s rock. Four decades later, the song has become one of music’s biggest cliches, inescapable at concerts and large events thanks to The Most Annoying Dude In The Crowd. But if, somehow, you haven’t heard the song in, say, five years and you return to it with open ears, you might be surprised by how well it holds up. “Freebird” would not have become so irritatingly legendary were it not a great song.
Then there’s “Gimme Three Steps.” In a genre filled with machismo, this is the rare song that celebrates high-tailing it out of harm’s way. “I was scared and fearing for my life/I was shakin’ like a leaf on a tree,” Ronnie Van Zant sang. “‘Cause he was lean, mean, big and bad, lord, pointin’ that gun at me!” It’s one of the funniest songs in the classic rock canon.
In an era before the phrase “power ballad” was coined and certainly before it became a dirty word, the album highlighted two classic power ballads, “Simple Man” and “Tuesday’s Gone.” Sung from the narrator’s memory of advice given to him by his mother, the former was something of a mission statement for the band: “Take your time, don’t live too fast/troubles will come and they will pass/go find a woman and you’ll find love/and don’t forget son/there is someone up above.” One could argue “Simple Man” is as influential to today’s country music as any of Hank Williams’ songs.
— Brian Ives, Radio.com