When I read this week’s topic for Twisted MixTape over at “My Skewed View, I thought, “WTF? How am I going to come up with five songs that fit the category “Things You Might Get Busted For In Real Life”, especially considering my very limited knowledge of the Rap and Country genres.
I know, I know, not ALL Rap songs are about “puttin’ a cap in someone’s ass; not ALL country songs are about beating your wife. Statistically, it may be closer to every OTHER, but I still don’t listen to much music that falls into either category. What can I say? I’m a Rock chick!
As I consider Google searches tantamount to cheating, I spent the better part of the week wracking my brain for songs that fit this category. Here is what I came up with:
HEY, JOE, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
This is one of those songs that, upon first hearing, unless you are an electric guitar aficionado — if you are, say, more of a lyrics person, which I consider myself to be, may leave you going “Huh? What the hell is going on here?” To say that it’s lyrically “spare” is an understatement.
At least that was my reaction to it the first time I heard it. I remember it very clearly — my sister and I, who were probably pre-teens heard it on the radio. We kind of looked quizzically at each other shortly before we proceeded to burst out laughing. Between guffaws we kept repeating, as did Hendrix,
Where ya goin’ with that gun a yours?
I’m goin’ to shoot my old lady down.
We repeated these lines for hours. Possibly until we were asked by one of our parents to “Shut it!”. What can I say? We found it hysterical.
This was probably around 1975-ish. So, it wasn’t a new song by any means. It was new to us, though. We had no exposure to this kind of music — not up to that point anyway. We were just beginning to discover FM radio.
We would soon realize that FM was where “it” was “at”. We quickly abandoned Neil Sedaka, The Carpenters, and other AM favorites, set our radio dials to WNEW or WPLJ and allowed folks like Pat St. John, Carol Miller, Scott Muni, Pete Fornatale, and Alison Steel introduce us to Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, and, of course, some bandana-wearing guy who, like us, was from New Jersey. Some guy named Bruce. Yeah.
What I soon came to realize was that Hey, Joe WAS telling a story — a dark story, but a story nonetheless. Eventually I would understand. I just had to listen more carefully and find my way through the powerful electric guitar-driven energy that Mr. Hendrix brought to the piece. Eventually the listener discovers that “Joe” does, indeed, manage to “shoot [his] old lady down”. By the end of the song he reveals that he is “goin’ way down South/Way down to Mexico way”.
Doing what “Joe” did could definitely “get you busted in real life”. No doubt about it.
ROMEO AND JULIET Dire Straits
This may be the ultimate “stalker” song. It is, by far, my favorite Dire Straits song.
Mark Knopfler could have used any two names to tell the story of a guy who won’t give up on his girl. He chose, instead, to use the names of the two most famous star-crossed lovers that literature has ever known. In Mr. Knopfler’s version, they don’t die. Instead, Juliet throws Romeo over in favor of another guy. At one point in the song she says, “Oh, Romeo, yeah, ya know. I used to have a scene with him.”.
Romeo can’t let go, though. He can’t believe she’s moved on. In the chorus he reminds her,
When we made love you used to cry
I’ll love you til I die
He holds out hope that just “like the movie song”, “there’s a place for us”.
One of the best images the song conjures is the balcony scene from the Shakespeare play of the same name — when Juliet realizes that Romeo is outside her window (she’s inside with her new fella, as opposed to The Bard’s Juliet, who was inside with her nurse).
Juliet says hey it’s Romeo, you nearly gimme me a heart attack
He’s underneath the window she’s singing hey la my boyfriend’s back
You shouldn’t come around here singing up at people like that
Anyway what you gonna do about it?
“You shouldn’t come around here singing up at people like that” is one seriously great line, isn’t it? I mean, can’t you just see a modern-day Romeo serenading Juliet not with poetry, but, instead “laying everybody low with a love song that he made”? I can.
This type of behavior, though, no matter how well-meaning, could surely land a guy in some legal hot water.
Just for fun — here’s The Killers cover. It’s nice. Brandon Flowers is no Mark Knopfler, but it’s a decent cover!
COCAINE Jackson Browne
There are many versions of this song — Jackson’s original version, recorded on Running on Empty — and later “rehab” versions. I like them all. Even the original version had elements of the cautionary tale, later versions focused more on the damage done, particularly to an artist’s creativity, while using the drug.
This verse, from the original, is credited to Glenn Frey and has long been one of my favorites:
I was talking to my doctor down at the hospital
He said, “Son, it says here you’re twenty-seven but that’s impossible
Cocaine, “You look like you could be forty-five”
In later concert versions, Jackson took stabs at The Reagans by adding this verse to the song:
Now you take Nancy and I’ll take Ron
No telling what kind of drugs those two were on
He discusses the political implications of the cocaine trade by adding this lyric:
I wouldn’t have been a user even one more day
If I would’ve known
How cocaine was turning a profit for the CIA
The second reason I love this song is because it was part of Jackson’s foray into the “live” album category. Running on Empty was like no other “live” album that came before it. The musical selections on Running on Empty were recorded either on stage, like many “live” albums were, or in hotel rooms, backstage areas, or even tour buses. All of the songs, this one included, have a “real” sense of being “live”, as opposed to many “live” albums where one hears the applause or the snippets of introduction that separate the “live” versions from the studio versions. There were no studio versions of these songs. Depending on where they were recorded, different background noises can be discerned — things like the bus engine, the room service cart, the tinkling of ice in glasses. The first time I listened to this album, I felt like I was there — in the room, on the bus, backstage — like I was a part of the party.
When you get involved with this stuff — or any other addictive substance — there’s a good chance you’ll see the inside of a courtroom or two.
Jackson Browne and David Lindley at their BEST!
Here’s one of the “rehab” versions, just in case anyone’s interested!
HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT Pat Benatar
I’ve included this one because for all it’s bravado, I’ve always gotten the sense that it’s about domestic abuse. I’ve always found that line, “Before I put another notch in my lipstick case/You’d better make sure you put me in my place” part of the cycle of violence — the push-and-pull of goading your attacker that is all too common in these volatile situations.
It’s an angry song, from an album which includes mostly angry songs. With the exception of the cover of Kate Bush’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, Crimes of Passion is a knock-down, drag-out, no holds barred feminist fight fest. Do I even need to tell you how much I love it?
As far as fitting the category, I’d say that domestic violence will land you in jail — that it still often doesn’t? That’s the real crime.
MEETING ACROSS THE RIVER Bruce Springsteen
This song from Born to Run doesn’t have the same cachet as, say, THUNDER ROAD or JUNGLELAND or the title track. It’s not about scratching your way out of your nowhere life, either. Unlike the rest of the album, it’s a small, almost quiet, vignette in which we glimpse the guy that doesn’t make it, possibly one of the “losers” the songwriter references in THUNDER ROAD.
This guy has to bum a ride from a friend, Eddie, to meet another hoodlum “on the other side” (presumably he’s going to Manhattan, which lies on the other side of the river from New Jersey). He’s desperate to get involved with the guy across the river. He doesn’t have a gun, but advises Eddie to “Here stuff this in your pocket/It’ll look like you’re carrying a friend”. Whatever he’s looking to get into will net him $2,000 — money he needs to get back in his girlfriend’s good graces.
You definitely get the sense that this score isn’t going to work out for these guys. Whatever deal they’re trying to be a part of will surely land them in hot water.
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NOTES ON THE MUSIC:
HEY, JOE, Jimi Hendrix and The Experience. From the album Are You Experienced, 1966. Written by Tim Rose.
ROMEO AND JULIET, Dire Straits. From the album Making Movies, 1981. Written by Mark Knopfler.
COCAINE, Jackson Browne. From the album Running on Empty, 1977. Written by Jackson Browne, Reverend Gary Davis, and Glenn Frey.
HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT, Pat Benatar. From the album Crimes of Passion, 1980. Written by Eddie Schwartz.
MEETING ACROSS THE RIVER, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. From the album Born to Run, 1975. Written by Bruce Springsteen.