300 Songs For 300 Years: Keyboardists
MAY 9, 2018by: BRETT MILANO
“Right Place, Wrong Time”
Dr. John, 1973
This track was a high-water mark for New Orleans music in the ’70s, putting Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and the Meters into the Top Ten at once (the single peaked at number nine). Unlike all other Dr. John albums, the two he made with Toussaint (In the Right Place and Desitively Bonnaroo) were full collaborations that featured Rebennack mainly just as writer and singer; the funky electric piano on this song was Toussaint and the Meters provided the groove (the guitar solo was a New York session guy, David Spinozza). The Doctor had some high-profile help with the lyrics pf this song: According to his autobiography, Bob Dylan came up with “I was on the right trip, but it must have been the wrong car”; Bette Midler followed with “My head was in a bad place, I don’t know what it’s there for”; Texas legend Doug Sahm kicked some words in as well. The daring-for-the-charts line about “the right vein, must have been the wrong arm” was apparently Rebennack’s own. He also claimed that the line about “needing a little brain salad surgery” (yes, the line Emerson, Lake & Palmer borrowed for an album title) was Ninth Ward neighborhood slang for oral sex, but it’s hard to imagine anybody else dreaming that one up.
In the wake of the album’s success Dr. John joined the ranks of rock royalty, recording with a couple of Beatles (albeit in their most shambling sessions, including John Lennon’s with Phil Spector), touring with the Allman Brothers, and even doing a few benefit shows for the Black Panthers. The peak of this era, however, was a 1974 episode of the PBS music show Soundstage that he hosted with Professor Longhair, the Meters and Earl King, all at the top of their form. The show was only briefly released on video and was never on DVD, so thank God for YouTube.