Lynyrd Skynyrd are an American institution. Their story may be marked by tragedy, most notably the death of Ronnie Van Zant in a plane crash in 1977, but songs such as Sweet Home Alabama and Free Bird and albums like (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) and Second Helping remain the foundation stones on which the whole southern rock genre are built.
Yet there’s much more to Skynyrd than those two songs. No one knows this more than Rickey Medlocke, who was originally the band’s drummer during their early days before returning as guitarist in 1996.
“When it comes to Skynyrd songs, my favourites tend to be the ones that are a little off the beaten track,” says Rickey. “Sure, I love the popular ones – Free Bird, Sweet Home Alabama, Simple Man – but what I’ll always lean towards is the outlaw side of the band. The heavy rock songs. Those are the ones I just get into playing, and those are the ones I’ve mainly concentrated on here…”
Who better, then, to run through the classic Skynyrd songs that aren’t the obvious hits. These are 10 best Lynyrd Skynyrd songs that aren’t Free Bird, according to Rickey Medlocke.
Tuesday’s Gone (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd, 1973)
Rickey Medlocke: “It’s like a lot of blues songs in that this one talks about being away from your woman. But Ronnie Van Zant’s lyrics really do capture the spirit of losing someone: ‘Train roll on down the line/Won’t you please take me far away’… man, that hits you!”
Mississippi Kid (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd, 1973)
Rickey Medlocke: “I grew up listening to the Delta blues through my dad. And this is really brings back those early memories. I also love the fact that when we do this live now, I get to play mandolin.”
The Needle And The Spoon (Second Helping, 1974)
Rickey Medlocke: “This one talks openly about the dangers of drugs, obviously. But it’s not downbeat. It has a great vibe and attitude. And there’s a lesson in it for us all.”
On The Hunt (Nuthin’ Fancy, 1975)
Rickey Medlocke: “This is about going out and looking for some leg! You know, prowling around for that one woman you wanna spend the night with. It’s a good time song, and we’ve all done it, right?”
Double Trouble (Gimme Back My Bullets, 1976)
Rickey Medlocke: “I love the way this really rocks. It has a such a cool vibe. You can’t go wrong with it. There’s a definite stomp to it.”
Cry For The Bad Man (Gimme Back My Bullets, 1976)
Rickey Medlocke: “Again, this is from Gimme Back My Bullets. This one has so much heart. It’s about the band’s original manager, Alan Walden, and how he was treated by the guys. What I love here is the vulnerability and regret in the lyrics.”
Gimme Back My Bullets (Gimme Back My Bullets, 1976)
Rickey Medlocke: “This isn’t about guns, as you might expect. It’s about the band wanting their bullet back on the charts. They wanted to have more success, and the bullet is all about moving up the chart again. I’d rate this alongside Saturday Night Special (from Nuthin’ Fancy). Again, that might seem like it’s all about guns, but there’s a lot more going on if you read the lyrics carefully.”
Searching (Gimme Back My Bullets, 1976)
Rickey Medlocke: “What I love about this is the way it talks about a young man wanting advice from a real wise old man. It will resonate with everybody, because it could be your dad, my dad, anyone’s dad.”
Travelin’ Man (One More From The Road, 1976)
Rickey Medlocke: “This is from the live album One More From The Road – the studio version is on the Twenty album. Y’know, this is what we do. It’s all about the life of a band, forever travelling around, never staying still. It’s a great song to perform live, because it captures what a band does. You can sense Ronnie’s vibe running through it and it captures what us touring musicians are all about. Wanna know what life’s like on then road? Listen to this.”
That Smell (Street Survivors, 1977)
Rickey Medlocke: “It’s all about what happens when drink and drugs overtake you. The song was written at a time when the band were going through a bad phase with with addictions, and it’s a warning to everyone about what this can leave to. ‘The smell of it surrounds you’… that’s a powerful line.”