Thursday, October 1, 2009
Today, in a run-down litter strewn part of the internet, I came across a country music compilation called "Shit Happens! Songs Of Everyday Life". Of course, I had to have it.
They should have called it "Shit Happens: Songs Of Everyday Life for REALLY UNLUCKY PEOPLE"
1) Eddy Arnold tells the sad tale of a woman who ignores her baby's pleas of "Mommie Please Stay Home With Me" instead of going out a-drankin'. When she stumbles home later, the smell of booze on her breath and music still ringing in her ears, she finds the baby near death and feverish. The doctor comes, and looks sadly on as the little nipper in his fevered delirium repeats his plea for his mama to stay home. Then the baby dies. The mama feels bad.
2) Dolly Parton's kids need clothing, so she walks them down to the Goodwill store in the snow. She turns the corner and runs smack dab into Porter Wagoner, in the role of "Daddy", who is in the midst of begging for booze money. She tries to reverse course quickly, but the astute kids notice him, and say "Mama, Ain't That Daddy?". Then Porter takes over, and tells what it's like to spend your days drinking "Whiskey, wine and gin." Some cocktail.
3) In the first of many Hank Snow songs on this comp, Hank deals with an unruly child by sending him to bed early for his crimes. The child resists, saying "Don't Make Me Go To Bed Papa and I'll Be Good". But Hank stands firm. Later, Hank and the Missus check on him only to find him lying in bed in intense pain. They sit up with him all night and half the next day. He dies
4) George Hamilton IV (untanned ) George runs into "Little Tom" at an all-night diner, raggedy clothes and no shoes, selling papers to help the family survive because Daddy spends all the money on booze and "gets fired all the time" from his various jobs. The little fellow is still cheerful despite his lot in life. As the song ends, George asks "Little Tom, what will be your fate?"
5) Dolly Again---this time she's telling us about little Jeannie, who keeps asking to sleep with her parents, as she is afraid of the dark. They take her to visit relatives graves, where she remarks that if she were to die, please don't bury her because the dark of eternal death would make her afraid. Porter takes over the song, to tell us that guess what----Jeannie Died. On a dark stormy night. But her parents made sure to keep a light on her little grave because of her fears.
6) Hank Snow tells us the cheerful tale of "Little Blossom", who is wondering where her Daddy is one night, and hopes he's not in that "long place with glass bottles" that make him "stumble home at night". She decides to go find him, and unfortunately for her she does. In a drunken rage, Daddy bashes Little Blossom's brains in with a nearby chair.
7) Not content to let the matter rest, Hank recorded "The Answer To Little Blossom". Same story, but from the point of view of Daddy. It seems when she found him, the drink made him think he was seeing a demon meant to do him harm. Only after he smashes her head in with a chair does he realize its his little girl. If Hank recorded a third version of the song from the point of view of the chair, they didn't include it on this comp. Thankfully.
8) Hank Snow, three in a row. In "The Drunkard's Song", he tells of the time he "wandered into the dusty attic of an old tenement house" (who "just wanders" into a tenement attic?) where a sickly little boy lies in filth. He is hiding from his daddy, who just that morning beat him up. Daddy beat him because he would not steal. His mama, of course is dead. Hank runs off to get the boy some help, but when he returns, the boy is dead. That's his story anyway.
9) Guess what! Hank Snow! Hank, again, is "just passing by" an Orphanage, where he finds a boy crying because he's "Nobody's Child". No mama's kisses, no daddy's smiles. Nobody wants him. He's Nobody's child. The other orphans all get adopted, but he never gets picked. Why? Because he's blind, that's why.
10) Eddy Arnold returns with a cheerful tale of a little boy asking returning soldiers "Did You See My Daddy Over There?" In France, or the like. One of the soldiers, turns out, DID see his Daddy. He saw him shot and killed.
11) The Louvin Brothers are going off to war, and before they go, they say "Mother Thank You For The Bible". She gave them one to keep them company in the fox holes. They read it out loud so their buddies can enjoy the scriptures too. The Bible takes a bullet for one of them, and saves their lives. Perhaps the happiest ending in the collection.
12) What do you know, it's HANK SNOW! In "The Blind Boy's Dog", Hank tells us about a blind boy giving up his dog for the war effort. I guess to lead blind soldiers into battle. They get a telegram from Uncle Sam that the dog has been killed in action. The blind boy begs the government to send his dog's body back home so he can bury him.
13) Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody sing "O Lord Please Tell Me Why", about a little girl crying at her mother's grave, wondering why God took her away. Leaving a small child all alone. With no guardian to prevent her from crying her eyes out all day long at the gravesite.
14) Ted Harris sings "Pickin' Flowers" about a little girl picking flowers on the roadside. He stops to help her. Turns out her little brother is "awful sick, and the doctor says he's gonna die" He's her only playmate. Her mother says that "God wants another fresh flower for his bouquet" hoping it will explain why the child is dying. The little girl is picking flowers in the hope that God will like her flowers well enough to spare the little brother. I hate to tell her...
15) A duet with Webb Pierce and Red Sovine, "Little Rosa". Guy sees a man kneeling at a grave, weeping. He's an illegal. In broken English, he tells Red and Webb (doing a very bad vaudeville Italian accent) "he looka at her with one bigga smile..." that he got the flower at a cut rate because the flower shop lady found out he was going to put it on his little girl's grave. He said "Tenk you, boss---tenka you very much..." I shit you not.
16) Jim Reeves learns that "Mother Went A-Walkin'" In the same sense as a dog one's parents don't want is "now living on a big farm in the country..."
17) Johnny Cash doing the classic "Give My Love To Rose". Guy lying by the side of the road, nearly dead, asks passerby to tell his wife and kid he loves them. Dies. The usual.
18) Webb Pierce tells us the story of "The Hobo And The Rose". Guy falls in love with a rich girl, who's daddy disapproves and marries her off to a more suitable mate. Jilted guy becomes a Hobo. Wears a single rose on his jacket to remind him of the woman. Comes back to his hometown after some years, to find the woman has five kids. He gets run over by a train.
19) Red Foley does his hit "Old Shep". "Just a boy and his dog...." For me, the dog owner, this was the one that choked me up. Dogs should outlive us. Shep, of course, does not. "Jim", the owner, goes to shoot him in the head with his gun, but can't do it. Instead, he sits down and puts Shep's head in his lap. Shep, knowing he's dying, licks the guy's hand. Then he goes "where the good doggies go".
20) Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody. "Dear Sister". In the form of a letter to a beloved sister. The beloved sister, when they were children, would either steal or break the other sister's toys. She was also smarter, and presumably prettier. Later, the "Dear Sister", not content with the memory of toy breaking and humiliation, decides that she should steal the now grown sister's man. She does.
21) Johnny Horton, later to be decapitated for real in a horrific road accident, tells us the sad story of the woman who learns that "Another Woman Wears His Wedding Ring". Johnny meets this girl in a honky tonk, and wonders why she's getting hammered. Turns out that her man, who fathered her child, left her for someone new. Now she has no future. To top it off, the kid looks just like the daddy. So, she's drinking. Wouldn't you?
22) Perhaps my favorite Porter Wagoner song comes next. "The Cold Hard Facts Of Life" was the name of Porter's hit, as well as the album that contained it. The cover art is priceless, with Porter standing forlornly in a doorway, one hand on the doorway and the other holding a cigarette and a suitcase (Or bowling ball) while a surprised couple looks at him from the sofa. The song is even better. Porter has been away on business, and decides to "surprise the wife" by not calling to say he's coming home early. He stops to get some booze, and the guy in front of him in line is talking about a party he's going to at this woman's house who's husband is out of town. Porter thinks nothing of it, until he notices that the guy's car is heading for his neighborhood, and even worse, pulls into his driveway. Porter decides to teach them "The Cold Hard Facts Of Life" by murdering them both. With a knife.
23) Ed Bruce gives us "Tiny Golden Locket" about a little boy going into a bar, clutching a Tiny Golden Locket. It contains a picture of a woman. Turns out it's his mommy, and has Ed Bruce seen her? She's all he's got in life. Ed sadly watches the kid leave the bar, and then hears the squeal of brakes. He runs out to find the boy has been killed by a car while crossing the street. The best part? The driver was his mother.
24) If there's one thing I love, it's the Country Music Recitation. Porter Wagoner was the best at this, but other guys tried it. Ferlin Husky gives it a shot with "Drunken Driver". Sad, twangy violins accompany the spoken word account of how a couple of kids, who had a hard life because their daddy R-U-N-N-O-F-T to spend his time drankin' and carryin' on, and their mama died. As they're walking along the state highway, they are killed by drunk driver, who has the presence of mind to yell out at them before he hits them "Git outta the road, you little fools...." Turns out the driver is....Daddy. The little girl is killed instantly, but the son lives long enough to say "I always told sister we'd see you again, Daddy---why'd it have to be this way? How come you run us to the ground? Why Daddy? Why?" This might be the most over the top one in the collection. A keeper for sure.
25) We close out the collection with Porter's classic "Carrol County Accident", where his cheatin' daddy is killed in a car accident with the woman he's cheating with. I think they should have ended the collection with the previous number, Drunken Driver. But maybe that's just me.
All in all, this is the kind of collection that needs to be heard to be believed. Two enthusiastic thumbs way way up.
For further reference, here's that Porter cover: