Welcome to Fern Bar Fridays, a lighthearted romp (is there any other kind?) through a decade of cool music and even cooler drinks. The fern bar era, which roughly spanned 1975-1985, was filled with giant lapels and ties (and then later teeny tiny lapels and ties), ridiculous drinks, and sweet sounds. Every Friday we'll bring you a song and drink pairing emblematic of that delightful time to help you get the weekend started off on the right loafer-sans-sock-shod foot. (To learn more about fern bars, check out our recent article on Henry Africa's, the San Francisco watering hole where it all began.) Today we're marking the 66th birthday of one of our favorite fern bar songstresses and her tribute to the truck drivers of the American West: "Willin'" by Linda Ronstadt.
Linda Ronstadt is the Patron Saint of the fern bar; this is especially true of Rita's, the imaginary fern bar that exists in my head. (Stevie Nicks is our High Priestess; it's a fluid and inclusive religion we practice among the Tiffany lamps, Ivy League pennants, and tarnished French horns.) So naturally, this week's Fern Bar Friday pick goes to La Linda in celebration of her 66th birthday. While it's nigh on impossible to select the ferniest song in her catalogue, for my money "Love Is A Rose" is a tough choice to top. She offers to hay someone's wagon, for crying out loud! That's such a delightfully, slightly sleezy '70s way of offering sexual favors in exchange for a lift out of town, isn't it?
With that disclaimer regarding the challenge of selecting just one of her many, many wonderfully ferny numbers out of the way, we've decided to bring you "Willin'" as our Linda Ronstadt Fern Bar Friday tune for a few reasons. For one, it's a freaking great song. Secondly, in the tradition of last week's offering, "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," it makes mention of a drink right there in the chorus—which will provide the inspiration for today's pairing. And third: casual '70s DWI! One of the trips associated with this series is examining the ways in which the lyrics of these songs could never happen today. Could you imagine the outcry from MADD if such a song were released in this day and age, advocating for driving your rig after imbibing alcohol along with a stimulant and a narcotic, all while taking back roads to avoid getting weighed?! McGruff the Crime Dog might even get in on the act. And just think how berserk Republican wingnuts would go over the mention of smuggling "smokes and folks" into the country from Mexico.
While I've got you on the topic of the lyrics, "Willin,'" I'd also submit, is a killer karaoke song. Sure, most people won't be instantly familiar with it, but when you belt out "And if you give meeeeeeeeee weed, whites, and wine," you can bet your bottom dollar they'll snap to attention. "Whites," by the by, refer to amphetamines. I had to Google that. The only thing that might be tricky, in karaoke terms, is managing not to garble the four cities visited by our truck-drivin' friend. So as a service to you, I'm going to break it down for you in phonetic terms:
"I've been from Tuscon to Tucumcari/Tehachapi to Tonapah" should sound like "I've been from TOO-SAN to TOO-COME-CARRIE/TA-HATCH-AH-PEE to TONE-AH-PAH." You're welcome!
We're getting ahead of things, though, so before we go any further how about we actually listen to the song? Yes, sure!
I'm particularly enamored of this version because of Linda's lead-in banter about her roadies getting stopped at the German border in the middle of the night; I could fritter away several hours letting my imagination run wild on the topic of the adventures of Linda Ronstadt's roadies. Also: her off-the-shoulder blouse. Never met an off-the-shoulder blouse I didn't love! (I blame Naomi Harper for my affliction. Related: In my mind, "Dallas Alice" looks just like Naomi Harper.)
Speaking of Naomi Harper! I think it's cocktail time at the Fern Bar and oh boy, are you ever in for a treat because the "Willin'" drink pairing is one of my very, very, very favorites and, I'd guess, one of her favorites too: The wine spritzer!
The classic wine spritzer is a simple combination of white wine—though rosé may also be used!—club soda and a twist of lemon, served in a wine glass over ice. There are, of course, hundreds of variations, but the standard recipe goes something like this:
4 oz. white wine
2 oz. club soda, cold
lemon twist or slice for garnish
Pour the wine and club soda over ice. Garnish with lemon. (Amphetamines and/or a joint optional.)
So simple, and yet so absurdly enjoyable. Plus, as was pointed out last week, the fern bar doesn't aim to challenge. In terms of the type of wine to use, I'm partial to Chardonnay, though Chablis would be a more appropriate choice if you're looking for a truly authentic fern bar experience. But really, you should do you when it comes to a choice of grape. Just know that if you try to serve me a spritzer made with Savignon Blanc I will hurl that drink right in your face, Joan Collins-style. I'm not overly fond, to say the very least, of the cat pee notes associated with that particular wine. And if you're thinking about retaliating against me, just remember: I've got Linda Ronstadt's roadies in my corner.