How Stevie Ray Vaughan Confirmed His Legend With ‘Couldn’t Stand the Weather’
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Like the tornado blasting across its cover, Couldn’t Stand the Weather confirmed the arrival of a musical force of nature Stevie Ray Vaughan. He would, with the release of this second album in May 1984, continue to redefine the electric guitar in ways arguably not seen since Jimi Hendrix‘s death.
And to think that the bulk of Vaughan’s career — begun in 1971 when he dropped out of high school — went largely undocumented for the remainder of the next decade.
That is, until a lengthy apprenticeship in seedy blues clubs paved the way to a celebrated appearance at the 1982 Montreaux Jazz Festival, where that funnel cloud finally took shape. Over the the course of 1983, the Texan parlayed his watershed performance into a demo session sponsored by a very impressed Jackson Browne, then a memorable guest spot on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album and, at last, a long-deserved recording contract of his own with Epic Records. Vaughan and Double Trouble’s debut, Texas Flood, struck an immediate chord, selling two million copies and scoring two Grammy nominations.
In January 1984, Vaughan and Double Trouble entered New York City’s Power Station under the watchful eye of legendary A&R man John Hammond, though Richard Mullen and Jim Capfer technically handled production and engineering duties. Less than 20 days later – a major luxury considering they whipped up the debut in 72 hours – Vaughan, bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton walked out with their second album, Couldn’t Stand the Weather. When it arrived in record stores, some four months later, early-adopter SRV fans were duly rewarded with another blues/rock tour de force.
Right out of the gate, the fleet-fingered “Scuttle Buttin'” took listeners down into the countless sweaty clubs where Vaughan had cut his teeth. Next, the title track poured them a scotch, heightening their buzz with its vaguely jazzy voicings. Then came the the steady-rolling, slow burnin’ “The Things (That) I Used to Do,” which boasted rhythm guitar from big brother Jimmy Vaughan.
The album progressed with more straightforward blues like “Cold Shot” and “Honey Bee,” then switched to the pure jazz of “Stang’s Swang,” but not before a stunning cover of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).” Vaughan did the unthinkable, matching Hendrix chop-for-chop, and then taking his work even further. In contrast, there was SRV and Double Trouble’s absolutely epic, sparsely arranged reworking of the standard “Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place in Town)” displayed a capacity for subtle textures, tension and release, even though it was captured on the first take.
Couldn’t Stand the Weather proved Vaughan was fully capable of building his own sound out of blues fundamentals. His ability to walk between the past, present and future of the blues seemed like conclusive evidence that Vaughan and Double Trouble were indeed the music’s next great hope.
Vaughan notched his first Top 40 hit album with Couldn’t Stand the Weather, and the title track of this double-platinum smash would receive heavy rotation on MTV. Unfortunately, just three projects – including the posthumously released Family Style – and barely six years later, Vaughan was killed in a helicopter crash at the age of 35.
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