Fiddlin' AroundNancy Buchan


HankWilliamsBy Nancy Buchan

There are probably more songs written about love gone bad because of those issues than there are sweet songs about perfect relationships and everlasting fidelity. Mainly ‘cause the messy stuff is way more interesting! Every style of music has their entries into this category, and frankly there are so many songs about cheating on your partners that it’s kind of embarrassing. We’ve all been told lies, whether it’s a kind, white lie – “No, honey, those pants don’t make your butt look big…” – or the whoppers that involve serious treachery and which change everything and usually doom a relationship.

Country music is full of cheating songs, from Merle Haggard declaring “I’ll Always Know” to Shania Twain wondering “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” Barbara Mandrell and LeeAnn Rimes both had hits with the song, “If Loving You is Wrong I Don’t Want to Be Right”, in which love kind of trumps marital fidelity. The most enduring classic of them all is Hank Williams plaintive “Your Cheating Heart”, which was released right after his death at age 29 in 1953. Famous for his womanizing, public drunkenness and his temper, he probably knew this subject from both sides, and the way he sang on this cut is heart-wrenching. “Your cheatin’ heart, will make you weep. You’ll cry and cry and try to sleep. But sleep won’t come, the whole night through – your cheatin’ heart will tell on you. When tears come down – like falling rain – you’ll toss around and call my name. You’ll walk the floor, the way I do, your cheatin’ heart will tell on you.” Then there are the songs that defend those poor ‘ole weak, cheating guys. Tammy Wynett pissed off plenty of females with her song “Stand By Your Man”, as did Loretta Lynn with “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)”. Hearing her declare battle on another woman over some piece of crap guy just riled most women up! “For you to get to him I’d have to move over and I’m gonna stand right here – it’ll be over my dead body….” I mean, what jerk, no matter which sex, is worth putting up with the pain and humiliation? Or a full-on bar room brawl…

In the mid-50s, as country music was morphing into rock, Chuck Berry released his first single on Chess Records, a song called Maybellene, which became a huge hit. It had started out as a fiddle tune, then Bill Monroe and the Texas Playboys (can’t get any whiter than those guys) released a swing version called “Ida Red”, which Berry turned into a song that teen-agers fascinated with cars, speed and sexuality just loved. It’s about an angry guy driving a V8 Ford, chasing his unfaithful girlfriend in her Cadillac Coupe DeVille. The bigshots at Chess Records thought that having a black guy sing what was basically a hillbilly song would be a chancy but potentially lucrative idea, and they even gave powerful disc jockey Alan Freed a co-writer status, ensuring that he would play the song on the radio. That’s a clear example of payola, folks, and it worked. “Oh Maybellene, why can’t you be true?”

In 1972 R & B soul singer Billy Paul put out a slinky, steamy and sexy song called “Me and Mrs. Jones”. It’s been covered by Michael Buble, Johnny Mathis, Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power, Hall and Oates and lots of others. It’s about two people who meet every day at the same place and time to be together, but they have to be careful not to arouse the suspicions of their spouses. You get the feeling they never really get to be together, wink wink, as they both have obligations they aren’t willing to give up. “Me and Mrs. Jones – we got a thing going on. We both know that it’s wrong, but it’s much too strong to let it go now….holding hands, making all kinds of plans, while the jukebox plays our favorite song….” The song is so cool that it almost makes you want to root for their infidelity to prevail….

Marvin GayeIn 1966 Marvin Gaye sang “Heard it Through the Grapevine”, another song about infidelity, but one in which he’s mostly mad about the fact that he had to hear about it from someone else! Sometimes you never know if a song works because the singer delivers it so well, or because the song itself is great. In this case it’s probably both – it was written by Barrett Strong, who was in Berry Gordy’s stable of performers and writers at Motown Records, and was recorded by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, then a faster version by Gladys Knight and the Pips which went to number one on the charts. Lots of back-stage dissention on this one – Berry Gordy vetoed all these versions initially from being released as a single, and only got behind Marvin Gaye’s rendition when it got so much airplay he couldn’t deny it’s power.  Gordy was convinced it needed to be ‘stronger’, but it ended up being one of Motown’s biggest hit singles ever, was played in the beginning of the movie “The Big Chill”, crossed over genre’s with Creedence Clearwater Revivals’ 11 minute version, and resurfaced again in the 80s as the soundtrack for a Levis commercial that had a life of its own. In 1986 Buddy Miles revived it once again in a commercial, as the singer for the clay animation group The California Raisons. There was lots of in-fighting about who recorded what originally, and who got the most air-play, and which background parts were swiped from other versions, and through it all Berry Gordy acted like the scheming power monger he really was. But it’s a great song and Marvin Gaye sang the hell out of it and it has endured longer than any of those guys….

Fleetwood MacThen there’s the weird and wild world of rock and roll, where not only do some bands sing about lies and betrayal, but some live it. The best example of this (or worst, depending on how you look at it) was the band Fleetwood Mac, with their constant re-grouping of band members and shuffling of romantic involvements. I always thought a daytime soap opera based on their lives would be a huge hit – way more interesting and equally as difficult to keep track of the players. Formed in 1967 in England, they were incestuous from the very beginning on musical and personal levels. Just trying to keep straight who was doing who was a full time job, since business and romantic allegiances between members, in-laws, sound guys, management and other musicians were changing all the time. All that confusion and drama paid off 10 years later when they released, in the midst of more personal bedlam, the album “Rumors”. Somewhat confessional, this album is the 6th bestselling recording of all time – 45 million dollars was raked in as a result of their angst and self-indulgent behavior. Yikes.

EaglesHonorable mention should go to the Eagles song “Lyin’ Eyes”, about those beautiful young girls who find rich old geezers to take care of them, while they sneak out in the wee hours from their fancy houses to be with their young boyfriends. There are some great lines in this song – “Late at night, a big old house gets lonely. I guess every form of refuge has its price. And it breaks her heart to think her love is only given to a man with hands as cold as ice.” As any shrink will tell ‘ya – “There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes…..”.

But I guess my favorite song of all time about this topic is by New Orleans pianist, composer, guitarist and singer Dr. John – aka Dr. John the Night Tripper, or Mac Rebennack. He is a huge part of the heritage of our city, and literally speaks his own language – a hip combo of Southern, Cajun, Black, Creole, Musician, Swampy Voo Doo lingo. In the song, Mac starts noticing that his bad-ass dog (that bites everybody, including his sweet little mother) doesn’t even look up when this new guy comes around his house. “How Come My Dog Don’t Bark When You Come Around?” is the title, and he asks this question throughout the song, getting a little scarier and more disturbed as his suspicions and anger grow. He’s got a mean sneer in his voice, and is unrepentant and descriptive about what he wants to do to the lyin’ and cheatin’ couple. The song has a kinda nasty groove to it, and the instrumentation and a clarinet solo seem barely controlled. Really cool song. “I slipped through the alley, I called my dog – said ‘get off your rusty duster, move a little faster to your ol’ master, you old cayute you’. He took one look at me, an’ he growled an’ he ran straight to you. Now somebody’s been confusin’ my po’ hound – and I wanna know what’s goin’ down….”

Well, here it is Xmas month and I got carried away with all this nasty, not even remotely warm and fuzzy stuff. Sorry about that – but it’s also the season for office parties and too much tequila and the need for an alibi…. The Escuela de Musica Sinfonica in San Isidro will be having Xmas choral, band and orchestra concerts during December, so check out these hard working students. A BUNCH OF DAMN MONKEYS, (Ben Orton on electric guitar, vocals and songwriting/ Tim Rath on vocals, guitar and drums/ Arturo Alcocer on vocals and bass/ myself on vocals and electric 5 string violin) will be playing most every Friday night at the beautiful and spacious Roca Verde, just south of Dominical – we love it when our friends from Quepos make the trek! As visitors come to our area there will be more live music action going on, so check out the options! Happy Holidays to everyone and thanks for supporting live music in all of its wonderful forms!!

“I told my wife the truth. I told her I was seeing a psychiatrist. Then she told me the truth – that she was seeing a psychiatrist, 2 plumbers and a bartender!”  Rodney Dangerfield

“There’s two kinds of people that I just can’t stand. An evil-hearted woman and a lyin’ man.”   Albert King/ Stevie Ray Vaughan song ‘Don’t Lie to Me’.

“The main difference between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives.”    Mark Twain

“Anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart and cannot make a good soup.”  Ludwig Van Beethoven

“You only lie to two people in your life – your girlfriend and the police.”   Jack Nicholson