Back at the end of July I told you about the bony objects rattling in my musical cupboard, and I realise now that I short-changed you by omission rather than commission. I’m putting this right now, prompted by the death this week of Glen Campbell.
I was genuinely saddened by this event. Back in the late sixties, when I was dabbling with Pink Floyd and Cream, I thought that ‘Wichita Lineman*’ was a great song. I still do as it happens. In the mid 70s, when I was buying albums by The Dictators and Iggy Pop, and the punk movement was just about to be unleashed on the world, I would cheerfully hum along to ‘Rhinestone Cowboy**’ because it’s very catchy.
Here’s the thing. Even during my heavy metal thunderer days, my progrock years, my dalliance with punk, the electropop era, I had a secret. That was a liking for mainstream country and western. I’m not talking esoteric bluegrass numbers that the real enthusiasts go for, much as I like that stuff. I’m talking cheesy.
Most commercial country songs go along the lines of ‘Mah wumman done left me and mah dawg done dahd an Ah’m all alone with this here bottle of red-eye.’ I’m fine with that. Despite the shortcomings of the genre, I like quite a lot of it.
Dolly ‘It costs me a lot of money to look this cheap’ Parton came out with the achingly sad ‘Jolene.’ Kenny Rogers had indefensible hair and a bad beard, but he gave us ‘Coward of the County.’ On the subject of bad barnets and dodgy facial hair, Kris Kristofferson. But some of his collaborations with Rita Coolidge are wizard. Want some beautiful backing vocals, and you could do a lot worse than Linda Ronstadt on ‘Whining’ Neil Young’s ‘Unknown Legend’ off the Harvest Moon album.
‘Orange Blossom Special’ fits neatly into mainstream C&W, but it still makes my hair stand on end. Also, I appropriated the Flatt and Scruggs surnames of the performers for two of the families in the Lee Roy Fuckwit stories. Charlene, Darlene, and Marlene were the Flatt girls Yes, the pun was intentional. Lee Roy’s best buddies, Bubba, Dubba, and Hubba were Scruggses, sons of Pa and Letitia, known more simply as Tits.
*I read that the lyrics, by Jimmy Webb, were never finished. It’s a song with a beginning but no end, which makes it even more remarkable, I reckon.
**Or as my mate Tim sang it, ‘Nine stone cowboy.’