What kinds of topics are forbidden, again?

Something tells me Chris DuBois is really not as familiar with country music as he should be:

There are no topics that are forbidden, unless they are risqué.

So what did Mr. DuBois think Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill” was about? I mean, come on, the character in the song was more or less telling her man, among other things, “So you’re worried about more baybehs? Dude, I got it covered with this newfangled pill. Let’s fuck like bunnies!” And yes, I know the main message of the song was “I don’t want any more baybehs, hoss.” But there was that other message, peripheral as it might have been. And then there were the songs in which the message was more central to the song, like, for example, Haggard’s “Living With the Shades Pulled Down”:

“Nobody knows what all we’re doin’ livin’ with the shades pulled down.”

Whatever it was, I’m sure it wasn’t, say, playing tiddlywinks.

Or how about the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon”:

“Feel like Delilah lookin’ for Samson, do a little mattress dancin’.”

Even with more innocuous lyrics, it should’ve been obvious what the people in the song were doing:

“Well, here we are again, tonight alone, just us two, where the lights are dim and true love is coming through. There’s no one else in this whole world as far as we’re concerned. We built ourselves a fire, so let it burn.”

(George Jones, “Loving You Could Never Be Better”)

Somehow I doubt they were just cuddling. Oh, they very well might have been; but you knew it was going to lead to other things.

I suppose there’s always the chance that DuBois was talking about modern country music, but then how does one explain something like “Brown Chicken Brown Cow” or “Rain Is a Good Thing” (a song about, as Dan Milliken described it, “drunken hootenannies and rain-soaked barn sex”)? I don’t get it…

(h/t Country California)

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17 Responses to “What kinds of topics are forbidden, again?”

  1. AeroDillo Says:

    Well…you gotta admit this DOES explain a lot about the present state of country music.

    Looking back – way back, to the earliest years of genre – you find two general halves. Either the songs were aimed at the hard-living set or the faithful. As near as I can tell there’s always been something of a disconnect between the two, even as they got thrown together into what became country music. Strange bedfellows, eh?

    Trouble is you don’t really see much of either anymore. Why? Because you’ve got an industry loaded with people that have never done anything BESIDES making music for a living. Essentially, you got the puppets from Nashville. Mix this in with the onset of busybody aspects of today’s evangelicals* who demand their entertainers be squeaky clean and child-safe and there you have it….county music without sharp corners.

    Having lived amongst the evangelicals for most of my years, I’ve noticed a strange pattern in their entertainment. Chiefly – and I say this as a Christian, albeit a pretty lousy one – most of their entertainment sucks. It’s crap. Utter garbage.

    Why?

    Because this particular group is on fire for redemption. And that’s fine. That’s grand. The more redemption the better. What they don’t understand is that, from a dramatic standpoint, you can’t make people grasp light without showing them darkness. Sort of like movies used to be – if you needed an impressive Good Guy, you needed a pretty hefty Bad guy.

    And there’s a lot of evangelicals listen to country music. But – that’s a story for another time.

  2. southtexaspistolero Says:

    Excellent points, AeroDillo, especially about the light vs. dark, though I must admit I would’ve never thought to pin country’s woes on evangelicals. I always thought it was Nashville’s targeting the so-called “soccer mom” demographic that was at the root of the problem, because of course they don’t like the sharp edges either. As Texas singer Brian Burns put it:

    They got sexy tractors and pearl snap shirts,
    eighth-grade level is where it all works,
    man, it’s Nashville and Austin fightin’ their demons to a draw,
    and them horny housewives just wanna hear some Tim McGraw.

    …or Kenny Chesney, or Keith Urban, or Brad Paisley (and I say this as one who thought his first three cds were pretty good)…

    It always made sense to me; after all, how does one explain crap like “Mr. Mom”? But I can certainly buy the evangelicals having a role here, just like they do in politics.

  3. AeroDillo Says:

    I don’t mean to say that evangelicals are solely responsible, though I’d say they’ve got a definite hand in things. The trouble with bringing them up (which I’m usually loathe to do) is that it paints with a pretty broad brush and there are some legitimate exceptions.

    Still, as a demographic (again with the broad brush) they strike me as a fairly thin-skinned bunch when it comes to picking entertainment. Not that there isn’t a time or a place for what’s considered ‘wholesome’ movies and music, but…

    …when I turn on a country station I expect some grit with my tunes. Or some originality. Something…anything but perfect hand-holding teenage romance or young wedded bliss.

    I also tend to think that the aim of songwriting has shifted badly. Either that or the audience has. Let’s take two songs, for instance. One from my formative musical years and one from fairly recently, both dealing with domestic issues.

    In 1992 (when I was seven) Doug Supernaw sang “I Don’t Call Him Daddy”, which if you’ve heard you’ll know is about a man being divorced from his wife and, by extension, separated from his kid. Yeah, it involves a rugrat, but when you hear the music as an adult you pick up on all kinds of exciting new messages: love isn’t easy, it doesn’t always work out, and sometimes there’s pretty stiff consequences and painful loose ends when things go south.

    That makes you think. Unless you hate that song. Then it makes you change the channel.

    Now. Move up to 2003 and the aforementioned Lonestar abomination, which paints a picture of the sort of picture-perfect existence that too many of my generation grew up to expect; that your prince/princess is waiting, your castle is a wish away, and the your children’s soiled diapers don’t stink.

    Sorry – but I know bad fantasy when I smell it. Regrettably, it’s also less offensive than a good deal of what’s available. Your average, middle of the road family will move towards that; not necessarily because it’s attractive, but because the other offerings are more repulsive. The only value of current pop-country is because it’s NOT as abrasively vulgar as other types of music. And the listening public will move like cattle that don’t know they’re in a chute.

    We need better country music.
    We need better Christian music.
    We need better music, period.

    ***

    As an aside, well played with the Burns quote. I have a number of his CDs and need to check into his newer stuff. By chance do you know of Calexico? They aren’t country, but they’ve got an interesting western sound, especially on Black Light.

  4. BL Says:

    When I think of Supernaw, I think of him hammered and coked up, on one occasion getting in a bar fight with a bass player acquaintance of mine because the gal Supernaw was with took a liking to the bass player that was mutual but she was an escort he was paying for. Not hard for him to write broken relationship songs. He’s had LOADS of them. Last time I saw him in person he was being hauled from a party passed out stone cold in the bed of a Ranger. Gotta live a bit if you want to right authentic grit. Jackson Taylor is a bit erratic but he’s still one of my favorite of the newer outlaw generation. He was raised as a migrant farmworker by his dad and had some pretty significant drug issues at times.

    Brad Paisley: Government worker dad, schoolteacher mom, sang in church. His first big break was a gig at a Rotary Club. Later had an ASCAP scholarship in college and interened in the music industry as a music industry pencil pusher…Oddly, he wrote a hit song for David Kersh, who was a janitor and who, for a bit, called his band “The Branch Davidians” and when the label complained he started referring to his band as “David Kersh and Morning Wood” because he’s a bit of a hellraiser with a decent sense of humor.

    Money is still the bottom line though, if you are in it for money. It’s been a BUSINESS for a long time.

  5. Les Says:

    How about ‘Third rate romance, low rent rendezvous” by Sammy Kershaw, or “Satin Sheets”, thought those were fairly gritty.
    The disconnect was there in early country because that’s the way people were. I remember two families in Mississippi, (my great grandparents on one side). One side more or less never let a profanity out their mouths, Bible reading, hard working, salt of the earth, with notable hell-raising exceptions. The other side’s version of English was composed of four letter words, with the notable absence of Hollywood’s favorite four letter word starting with “F”. They were also some of the hardest working folks I know of, and in their way very decent as well. They married each other, lived in the same county together for about a century, but were still different. “On the wings of a Dove” vs the rougher stuff with some mixing. Nashville did have to satisfy both.
    Nowadays,well a little while back, you have “My Ding a Ling” and “Perfect in every way” and now “‘I’d like to check you for ticks”. Which I like. Along with Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn (whose music was anathema to me as a kid)(but things change).

    You folks are obviously way up on me on the music scene, and I’ve enjoyed going back to previous posts and learning. Once again, my wife says today’s country is yesterday’s rock and roll and she loves it. She hates my mother’s country (which I now like) “I’m a cowboys sweetheart” complete with yodeling and “In the Jailhouse now”, or “Blue eyes crying in the rain.

    I don’t even know enough to argue, darn it, and your discussions on music are ofter over my head. I am the uninformed customer. But I find something to enjoy. Even if KILT and KTSA and KRYS aren’t the stations I grew up with anymore. I do change the channel a lot, though. As an aside, George Jones sometimes couldn’t show. Kind of like waiting for the Doors. Those folks all got to see some grit. “Stand by your man” meant something to Tammy Wynette, I think.

  6. southtexaspistolero Says:

    it paints with a pretty broad brush

    Well, so does blaming it all on the soccer moms and “horny housewives.” 😉 But there are at least some grains of truth to the perception that Nashville’s marketing to those folks is responsible for country music’s woes. Funny you should mention the song “I Don’t Call Him Daddy.” I was 14 when that song came out, and I picked up on all that; that’s definitely one of those kid-involved songs that has the grit and honesty that country music is known for. I remember in the video, the dad got the kid a stuffed horse. Cool, right? Well, at the end of the video, dad and kid pull up to the mom’s house…and mom and stepdad got the kid a REAL horse. As the kid runs towards the house, you see him dropping the stuffed horse and it hitting the ground. I saw that and even as a teenager I thought, “Damn…”

    I came of age long before all that shit hit, so my family was by and large spared all that; I don’t remember it being quite so bad in the late ’80s and early-to-mid-’90s. Usually when I was in the car with my folks we were listening to the classic and modern rock stations, with a fair bit of the country stations thrown in there. It wasn’t as abrasively vulgar as other genres back then either, but then it wasn’t so…pandering, if you will. (And that sort of thing has a abrasiveness and vulgarity all its own.)

    I’ve heard of Calexico but haven’t heard any of their stuff. I shall have to check them out. I do have three Brian Burns cds, though: The Eagle and the Snake: Songs of the Texicans, Heavy Weather and Angels & Outlaws. TEATS is hands-down the best piece of Texas music I have ever bought.

    David Kersh called his band the “Branch Davidians”?! He sounds a lot more hardcore than his Nashville-label music would suggest. But of course, by that time country’s slide had really started picking up speed…

    And I remember Supernaw’s troubles quite well. I really liked his music; I had the cd with the aforementioned “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” at some point. I might still have it; a few of my cds got misplaced in the move.

    I don’t even know enough to argue

    Well, not to worry. Once upon a time I really didn’t either, about country or rock either one. Once I started hearing more of that older music, though, my passion for it really took off.

    And I know you have to satisfy both sides, but I think at least once upon a time there was an interesting dichotomy with people. I think of my grandmother on my mother’s side, one of those “never let a profanity out their mouths, Bible reading, hard working, salt of the earth” folks you speak of. (From Mississippi, no less! She was born in Tennessee, though…) She loved that old country music too; of course that was back when all that old country was new, but even so she still loved it all. I think a lot of people forget that “vulgarity,” however one defines it, is a part of real life.

    “They told us once or twiiice, to quit playin’ cards and shootin’ diiiice, we’re in the jailhouse nowwwww….” LOVE that song! Both Webb Pierce’s and Johnny Cash’s versions…

    • BL Says:

      I remember Supernaw’s troubles that fight night really well, because the rental gal was smokin’ hot and I was very sober because I was doing sound that night 😉

      Hey, it was an honest mistake, escorts don’t come with price tags on them, so it’s not like anybody knew she was a rental until he got mad. And, she WAS quite fetching. If you think you can take a girl to a honk tonk without her getting hit on, you aren’t thinking very well (even if she’s fat and ugly).

  7. AeroDillo Says:

    “I’ve heard of Calexico but haven’t heard any of their stuff. I shall have to check them out. I do have three Brian Burns cds, though: The Eagle and the Snake: Songs of the Texicans, Heavy Weather and Angels & Outlaws. TEATS is hands-down the best piece of Texas music I have ever bought.”

    I have those three. I think the next up was Border Radio, but somehow I never got around to finding it; seriously, I live in a town with three colleges and not one music store – how weird is that?

    Another one I found out through Burns was Tom Russell, who I’m pretty sure sang on a couple of a tracks on Eagle and the Snake. He’s got an album titled The Man From God Knows Where that I like immensely. The songs there are pretty much his family history set to music. It’s nothing you’re liable to hear on the radio, but it’s kept me amused for a number of years.

    “They told us once or twiiice, to quit playin’ cards and shootin’ diiiice, we’re in the jailhouse nowwwww….” LOVE that song! Both Webb Pierce’s and Johnny Cash’s versions…”

    What? No Jimmie Rodgers?

    • southtexaspistolero Says:

      I think the next up was Border Radio

      Yep. I’ll go after that one eventually. I’ve heard “The Prettiest Girls in Texas” and really like it. (And I can definitely vouch for what the song says. I married one of those beautiful San Antonio girls. 😉 )

      Three colleges and not one music store? Wow. When I was living in Bryan-College Station they had one really good music store that I remember; it had a pretty good selection of the Texas artists, but then College Station is and has been for a while one of the big stops for the Texas artists. San Antonio’s music stores are kinda meh as far as Texas music goes, but Lone Star Music — which has what is probably the biggest selection of Texas/Americana music on the planet — is only about a half-hour north of here, in Gruene. And yes, I have gone up there just for music!

      Tom Russell sang with Brian Burns on “El Llano Estacado” and wrote “Gallo Del Cielo.” He also recorded the original version; both are great, but I prefer BB’s slightly.

      And I am not sure I’ve heard Jimmie Rodgers’ “In the Jailhouse Now.” Hell, I thought I was lucky to get to hear Cash’s. Lol, I’ve heard his and WP’s versions of the song frequently on Sirius.

  8. Les Says:

    Webb Pierce’s was the version I heard and liked, from Mama’s era, steel guitars and all.
    Where does “Billy and Sue” by B. J. Thomas fit in the spectrum? Just asking. Pop? Rock? Or “Tell Laura I love her?” That one was steadily being played over and over on the juke box by the then young mothers watching us 6 to 10 year olds swim at the Point Comfort city swimming pool in the summertime. I just about know it all from memory, just hearing it all the time while swimming. Little sappy for me, but they loved it.

  9. Les Says:

    Well, my wife just informed me The Eagles are now country, and with that she rested her case. She also told me the old stuff I now like is “hillbilly”. I, of course, just said”Yes, dear, you’re right, dear”.

  10. southtexaspistolero Says:

    Billy and Sue” by B. J. Thomas fit in the spectrum? Just asking. Pop? Rock? Or “Tell Laura I love her?”

    Well, I’d say those are really more pop than rock or country, but that’s just me. Lol

    The Eagles are now country

    Well, considering Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban are considered “country” now, that’s not really saying much. 😉 But I’ve said before that at least the country versions of the Eagles songs on Common Thread are more country than a lot what’s been played on the radio for the last ten years.

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