Mark Kozelek Sings ‘Find Me, Ruben Olivares’

markkozelek_rocknrollsingerListen to this song by former Red House Painters/current Sun Kil Moon linchpin Mark Kozelek.  It’s “Find Me, Ruben Olivares” as taken from his 2000 album Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer, on which he also reinterprets a selection of Bon Scott-era AC/DC songs in a similarly contemplative manner.

I first heard this tune thanks to a compilation album on British Music and Film Magazine Uncut, with the first impression that the guitar playing is the lushest, fullest acoustic sound I’d ever heard.  Then, I was struck by Kozelek’s voice; it’s a down to earth voice, as if a friend is sitting next to you.  And then the song itself hit me, a certain beautiful sadness to be found there in what comes off as a kind of road song, a song of searching.  I’ve always been interested in the idea of the hero’s quest.  And this song suggests this idea to me very strongly, which makes it my favourite of Kozelek’s.

Ruben Olvares is a boxer, which perhaps might be seen as an odd namecheck in this gentle folk-rock tune.  Or maybe not so odd.  Since this is a song seemingly about travel and about the trials along the way, it seems to me that the life of a fighter, moving from city to city, and making a name and a living for himself by putting himself at risk could also be the life of a musician doing the same, albeit in a different context.

Really, that what AC/DC’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer” is about as well, which might be the thread with which Kozelek followed in the making of this album.  Ultimately, what comes across to me is the idea of displacement, of searching for a home, and maybe trying to connect with kindred spirits in the process.  This is true of anyone who makes a life on the road.  Beneath all of the bravado and machismo of rock n roll singers and fighters too, this is the layer  which is common to everyone. And this is really what’s being explored by Kozelek here.

And whatever the context of the search, the hero’s quest out in the world,  I think this idea of questing for connection with others is really the chord that is struck here.

There is a world big as a mountain
There is a world to be shared
Still there is love tall as a mountain
Still there is love.

If we are talking about the quest, what better goal is there than this?

For more information and music from Mark Kozelek, check out


AC/DC Fronted By Bon Scott Perform “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer”

Here’s a clip featuring Scots-Australian rock ‘n’ roll juggernauts AC/DC, fronted by original lead singer Bon Scott in arguably his most convincing performance with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer”, taken from the 1976 album High Voltage.

One of my favourite urban myths is that Angus Young wears his schoolboy outfit because he is able to do anything with his guitar on stage while he wears it. Another myth was that when he was an actual schoolboy, he used to rush home from school, grab his guitar, and rush off to meet with his bandmates for rehearsals without changing clothes first. Changing would have cut into his playing time. Yet, I like that the symbolism of conformity and obedience has become something else through him, whatever the real story is. It's an act of defiance to wear the clothes of conformity, while at the same time speaking for the rebellious spirits of an audience.

There is a false split I think having to do with the old dinosaur progressive rock crowd, which takes in stadium rock too, and the short sharp shock of punk rock.  When it comes to the direction of rock music, the two poles are often portrayed as the only games in town in the mid-70s.  But AC/DC proved that straight ahead blues-soaked rock ‘n’ roll music was alive and well, although it took some convincing at first – Rolling Stone magazine panned High Voltage in 1976 as being the lowest common denominator in rock that year – “a new low” they said at the time.  Yet, they’d missed the point.  When you boil everything else away, what this band created was a pure breed rock band, uninterested in pretension of any sort, and putting their own rock ‘n’ roll dreams in practice for the sake of anyone who ever rocked an air guitar or sang into a hair brush.

And that’s what this song was all about – fantasy.  It’s about telling the Man where to stick his golden handshake, his silly rules, his moral standing, and all the other shit that they teach to kids in school.  This was a high-powered statement which, although fueled by the dual engines of Malcolm Young’s rhythm guitar and his brother Angus’ lead, really wasn’t much different than Chuck Berry bitching about being in school when all day long he’d been wanting to dance.  It’s rock ‘n’ roll.

Really, this song is about becoming something other than a cog in the wheel, a reality for most of AC/DC’s audience perhaps.  Yet that audience is delivered by three minutes of rock, with Bon Scott as their voice.  And that is what this group understood from the get-go; speak for your audience and they’ll be with you for the next thirty five plus years.  And so they are.

AC/DC newest album Black Ice is out now, and the band are touring it.

Check out the AC/DC official website for information about tours and other stuff.