Friday, October 16, 2009
High Weirdness Honky Tonk; or Country and WTF---Eddie Noack
"I seen my ex again last night, Mama
She was at the dance at Miller's store
She was with that Jackie White, Mama
I killed 'em both and now they're buried 'neath Jenkins' sycamore..."
That's how Eddie Noack tells his mother about the first two of six murders he commits during the course of a three and a half minute song called "Psycho", which might be just about the most perverse song ever recorded. The other four murders are his younger brother, the little girl who lives next door, a crying baby, and in the "twist ending", that same mother he is singing to. Oh yeah. He kills a puppy too.
I first heard this song years ago at an Elvis Costello concert. Since I had never heard it, I assumed it was a Costello original. But it was written in the 50s by the blind Texas songsmith Leon Payne, who'd written a couple of songs for Hank Williams that were big hits. Understandably, it wasn't a very well known song. In 1968, it was covered by Eddie Noack.
Eddie Noack was a songwriter himself, with a degree in Journalism and English from the University of Houston, the town that gave us the legendary Townes Van Zandt. He worked for the Nashville songwriting houses, and even for those "song poem" labels---the labels that would take out ads in the back of magazines saying they'd set your poems to music, and send you a crummy pressing of your song for a fee.
Since there's no readily available CDs of Eddie Noack, nor anything downloadable on iTunes or Amazon, I turned to the back alleys of the internet once again to secure a compilation made by some anonymous country music collector. Five discs worth, supposedly his entire recorded output.
With snaps, crackles and pops, as well as occasional skips, which only added to the authenticity of the stuff.
Turns out Eddie was a fine Honky Tonk singer, but with a weakness for some flat out crazy songs, that even in their day must have been VERY politically incorrect.
There's "The Poor Chinee" (bowdlerized on the label as "The Poor Chinese".) This little ditty is sung in pidgin chinese, such as "ship make a Chinaboy feel queer." and "little girl make wishee washee". A definite headscratcher as to commercial viability. But the weirdest thing about this song is that perhaps the finest country singer of all time, George Jones, chose to cover it.
If that's not enough to make you wince, there's "Firewater Luke", about what else? A drunken injun. Or more accurately, a man who sells "firewater" to drunken injuns (or the paleface, it matters not to him).
He wrote some great songs that weren't so weird, like "He's Gettin' Smaller (With Each Drink)" about a guy who's sitting around at a bar watching a pretty girl who happens to be with a date. So he keeps drinking, and with each passing drink, he gets more and more convinced he can kick the guys ass. THAT will impress her. So barkeep, make it a double and as Eddie says "Leave out all that fruit..."
But the big legacy for Eddie was his Batshit Crazy Trilogy of the aforementioned "Psycho", as well as "Barbara Joy", and "Dolores".
"Barbara Joy" is kind of like "The Long Black Veil", where a man wrongly accused of murder says nothing in his own defense because on the night in question he was "in the arms of his best friend's wife." Rather than besmirch her honor, he keeps mum and goes to the gallows. On dark lonely nights, the woman puts on a long black veil and mourns at his grave.
I say "Barbara Joy" is KIND OF like that, because in Barbara Joy the guy accused of a crime is guilty, and that crime is rape. He's asking Barbara Joy to "say that you were willing" so he doesn't swing. Yeah, Good luck with that, Eddie. Hey, guess what----George Jones covered this one too!
"Dolores" is just as weird as "Psycho".
We've got Eddie begging "Dolores" to stay inside the house tonight, because "lately there's been some violence in the streets..." He goes on to say how there's been a madman out and about, when he sees a woman, he "just goes berserk". He also mentions to Dolores that she's "just the kind of woman that he preys on." He's really worried because he has to work nights, collecting on insurance premiums. Again, he begs her to stay inside. Unfortunately, the police call him one morning and ask him to identify a body. It's Dolores. He laments, saying "Dolores, how could I know that it was you..." You see...HE WAS THE KILLER.
If on your travels you see any Eddie Noack, any at all, pick it up. If you don't like it, send it to me. I'll thank you for it.