Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Ballad of...

Wherein I write of six songs

Bob E., at Throwing Things, has 17 songs in iTunes beginning with "The" and is writing about them in a 5 or 6 part series. Read it, he's good.

Intrigued by the idea I checked my iTunes and turned up 440 songs beginning with "The." Wow. Leading the pack is John Wesley Harding with 20 and PJ Harvey with 18. Among the listings are twelve versions of "The Christmas Song"; one for every day, I guess. I also have six songs beginning with "The Ballad of...." Here they are:
  1. The Ballad of Davy Crockett, Tennessee Ernie Ford (Disney Collection, Vol 2). One of the best theme songs ever. Doubt the same song could be written today. Let's review some of the offenses: as a violent youth kills a bear, grows up and kills a bunch of Indians...

    wait wait wait wait wait. Be careful where you get your lyrics. I found this on one site:
    Fought single-handed through many a war
    Till the enemy was whipped and peace was in store


    But what is actually sung is:
    Fought single-handed through the Injun War
    till the Creeks was whipped an' peace was in store


    Someone is whitewashing genocide. Back to the song, he next becomes a big government politician and vandalizes one of the country's greatest relics (patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell). The collection I have only carries the abridged version of the song that stops short of Davy and his gang trying to steal some Mexican territory.

  2. The Ballad Of Gunther Johnson, The Subdudes (Lucky). A New Orleans band, these guys are still playing and have a new album with help from Keb Mo and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Must of lost a bet because they spent January touring Minnesota and Wisconsin. They have a podcast, check it out.

    Who is Gunther Johnson? Black dude in a Northern town/ down on his luck / directing some anger / towards those white dudes in a truck. But Gunther may be someone else.

    The refrain is we're just like you and I think this is being said towards the "black dude." If I'm hearing this correctly, Black Dude tries to pick a fight with White Dudes in a rundown part of town. Someone else explains their lives aren't that great, so why not put the brick down. Implication being, Black Dude's problem isn't racial, it's economic. This is why I don't listen to lyrics. I was perfectly happy with the funky accordian and the slide guitar, now I got this socio-economic lecture on racial tension clogging my sinuses.

  3. The Ballad Of John And Yoko, John Lennon (Imagine soundtrack). [joke about how this song should be about Yoko stepping in front of Mark Chapman and taking one for the home team deleted]. I like this song, just a cute little ditty of a song. According to wiki, it's performed by just Paul and John.

  4. The Ballad Of Julie Finkle, Ray Davies (The Storyteller). If I made a list of essential albums, this would probably be on it. "The Storyteller" is Ray Davies telling the story of the birth of Kinks, based on his unauthorized autobiography. Let's get this out of the way, The Kinks are better than the Beatles, better than the Rolling Stones, and maybe better then The Who. Who among the first two could've put something like this together? Julie Finkle is the story of the groupie.

  5. The Ballad Of Robbie Jones, The Levellers (A Weapon Called The Word). A pleasant sounding, celtic-like ballad. That makes absolutely no freaking sense. It's obviously anti-war, I get that, then it's just a muddle. Robbie gets drunk and his friends carry him home. Then his friends get drafted and sent off to Argentina, so Tom has to kill people instead of play his guitar. Who is Tom and what happened to Robbie?

  6. The Ballad of the Sad Young Men, Rickie Lee Jones (Pop Pop). One of my favorite Rickie Lee Jones albums. The whole is an idiosyncratic joy. Saw her on this concert tour at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the crowd sang happy birthday to her. It's the only time I've ever seen her truly smile on stage.

    It's hard to find someone who does melancholy better than Ms Jones, but she did not write this. It's from "Nervous Set" (Fran Landesman, 1959), a parody of the Beat movement. And according to this site is about gay life.

Sing a song of sad young man
Glasses full of rye
All the news is bad again so
Kiss your dreams goodbye

All the sad young men
Sitting in the bars
Knowing neon nights
Missing all the stars

All the sad young men
Drifting through the town
Drinking up the night
Trying not to drown

All the sad young men
Singing in the cold
Trying to forget
That they're growing old

All the sad young men
Choking on their worth
Trying to be brave
Running from the truth

Autumm turns the leaves to gold
Slowly dies the heart
Sad young men are growing old
That's the cruelest part

All the sad young men
Seek a certain smile
Someone they can hold for a little while
Tired little girl does the best she can
Trying to be gay for her sad young man

While the grimy moon
Watches from above
All the sad young men
Play of making love

Misbegotten moon
Shine for sad young men
Let your gentle light
Guide them home tonight
All the sad young men

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