“What was thrown off the bridge really isn’t that important.”
July 14, 2015 11:10 AM   Subscribe

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton, and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered out the back door, “Y’all, remember to wipe your feet!”
And then she said, “I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”
(Movie trailer, previously, previouslier) posted by Going To Maine (90 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite
 
If anyone has more information about “The Lonely One”, I'd love to have it. I was grooving on his sound, but the data is so, so sparse.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:11 AM on July 14, 2015


Oh, and the Nancy Wilson version is deployed to great effect at the opening of David Holmes's classic essential mix.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Underlined text isn't music, italic text is instrumental music, and * underlined, italicized text has vocals in a language other than English.

I wish I'd clicked through and read that key sooner, because I spent way too long trying to suss out the secret message concealed in sleepy day out and was and time and to to.
posted by Iridic at 11:17 AM on July 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Fantastic post!

"Ode To Billie Joe" is one of those songs ("The Weight" is another) that has a million amazing covers, and yet nothing can match the original. Here's Oscar Peterson's version.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:18 AM on July 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I knew OF this song for years before my dad actually played me a copy of it, and I was totally unprepared for just how goodit was.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:21 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


WOW what an awesome, encyclopedic, perfect OP.
posted by blucevalo at 11:27 AM on July 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is there really any doubt or disagreement over what was thrown off the bridge? It always seemed fairly obvious to me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:36 AM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's a really good 33-1/3 book about Ode to Billy Joe.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:39 AM on July 14, 2015


Is there really any doubt or disagreement over what was thrown off the bridge? It always seemed fairly obvious to me.

Not to me! My best guess is pretty macabre.
posted by Kitteh at 11:40 AM on July 14, 2015


It was an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.
posted by ogooglebar at 11:41 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like fuck it doesn't matter what was thrown off the bridge.
posted by maryr at 11:42 AM on July 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


King Curtis is using a wawa pedal.
posted by Jode at 11:42 AM on July 14, 2015


Not to me! My best guess is pretty macabre.

In that case we probably agree about what it was.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:44 AM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have a distant, dim memory of watching the Robby Benson movie at a drive-in theater (I would have been two or three years old) and being completely freaked out by some of the SERIOUS, ADULT STUFF that was unfolding on the big screen outside of the family VW bus. I still haven't the foggiest notion of what it was all about, but I do recall the Billy Joe character jumping off a bridge and thinking Robby Benson had really died, such is the impressionability of dumb little kids.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:45 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


thank you, kind sir!
posted by thelonius at 11:46 AM on July 14, 2015


Bobbie Gentry has been really cagey about what the song means, but apparently told blues musician Tony Joe White that the song is about very young people and an unwanted pregnancy, so the "tossing a child/aborted fetus into the river" theory may have some credibility. Gentry herself has said that she absolutely knows what was thrown in the river but does not think it is necessary to tell, as the point of that moment in the song is to establish the relationship between the young man and the young woman. If she was writing about abortion or infanticide, one can imagine why she would not want to go public with that fact in 1967.
posted by maxsparber at 11:48 AM on July 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


It always seemed fairly obvious to me.

Then why not say it plainly? I don't think it is obvious at all. I mean, there are a few good candidates but none make THAT much sense. To me, whatever got thrown was there only to connect and motivate - not to make a concrete plot point. And in fact the mystery of it is one of the hooks of the song.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:49 AM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I meant to add: that is what Bobbie said about it as well, more or less.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:49 AM on July 14, 2015


I still haven't the foggiest notion of what it was all about,

Robbie Benson had gay sex with his foreman at the sawmill and killed himself from guilt. I'm not kidding -- that's actually the film's big secret.
posted by maxsparber at 11:50 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Then why not say it plainly?

Same reason you avoid showing the monster in a good horror movie. It's creepier when the listener has to figure it out.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:50 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gentry herself has said that she absolutely knows what was thrown in the river but does not think it is necessary to tell, as the point of that moment in the song is to establish the relationship between the young man and the young woman.

I just read the Wikipedia article about the song, and they state this - and add that she has cryptically asked the rhetorical question, "what if it was a wedding ring?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:51 AM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh wow, this is awesome, thanks! My dad calls me every third of June to sing this song. He also calls my brother on Juneteenth and my husband on Flag Day but my husband refuses to answer the phone for these calls so every year he gets a voice message that begins with his father-in-law singing "She's a grand old flag..." and ends with him shouting "Happy Flag Day! Long may she wave!"
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:53 AM on July 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


There's another theory as well -- that the song is about an interracial relationship. But, then, I have heard people claim that Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter is likewise about an interracial relationship, so I assume that was just a popular trope back then.
posted by maxsparber at 11:54 AM on July 14, 2015


In a meta direction, I first heard about Bobbie Gentry from Jill Sobule (Youtube link), who states in the song, "Well, I was the baby who was thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge." (Obviously poetic license.)
posted by possibilityleft at 11:55 AM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always assumed it was a baby as well, but a wedding ring does make sense. So it's either that, or the same stuff that was in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
posted by yhbc at 12:00 PM on July 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Marcellus Wallace's soul?
posted by maxsparber at 12:01 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


the above-mentioned wikipedia article says this about the song:
Speculation ran rampant after the song hit the airwaves, and Gentry said in a November 1967 interview that it was the question most asked of her by everyone she met. She named flowers, an engagement ring, a draft card, a bottle of LSD pills, and an aborted (or stillborn) baby as the most often guessed items. Although she knew definitely what the item was, she would not reveal it, saying only "Suppose it was a wedding ring." "It's in there for two reasons," she said. "First, it locks up a definite relationship between Billie Joe and the girl telling the story, the girl at the table. Second, the fact that Billie Joe was seen throwing something off the bridge – no matter what it was – provides a possible motivation as to why he jumped off the bridge the next day."[4]

When Herman Raucher met Gentry in preparation for writing a novel and screenplay based on the song, she confessed that she had no idea why Billie Joe killed himself.[5] Gentry has, however, commented on the song, saying that its real theme was indifference:[6]

“ Those questions are of secondary importance in my mind. The story of Billie Joe has two more interesting underlying themes. First, the illustration of a group of people's reactions to the life and death of Billie Joe, and its subsequent effect on their lives, is made. Second, the obvious gap between the girl and her mother is shown when both women experience a common loss (first Billie Joe, and later, Papa), and yet Mama and the girl are unable to recognize their mutual loss or share their grief.
Now, here's what I wonder: Did Bobbie Gentry ever comment about the movie? Because the movie takes the story in a really horrible direction, saying that Billie Joe killed himself because of a homosexual experience. It's really despicable and I wonder if Bobbie Gentry had any strong feelings one way or the other about the adaptation.
posted by shmegegge at 12:01 PM on July 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Henry Kaiser did a really creepy version. Starts out fine, then evil creeps into the chords. It's fantastic.
posted by Windopaene at 12:02 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, distilled essence of McGuffin.
posted by yhbc at 12:06 PM on July 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Weirdly, I think the film was attempting the same sort of Southern Gothic that you'd find in William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. It was written by Herman Raucher -- a very good writer, who was partially responsible for the hideously depressing Great Santini. But Raucher didn't have the same sensitivity to the topic that Faulkner and Williams had, and so, rather than being an adult film addressing complicated adult themes, it comes off as disappointingly homophobic.
posted by maxsparber at 12:10 PM on July 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you were born after Top 40 radio, this is a mysterious classic. If you were alive, however, when this debuted, you might have had the grace to make a trigger warning. Or might not, were you cruel enough to make this post in the first place. There is nothing like having to listen to the same song over and over and over and over and over and over and over, hour after hour, day after night, week after week to make you want to confess to every murder ever committed, just to never hear that song again.
posted by y2karl at 12:13 PM on July 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, the song "Ode to Billie Joe", which was sung by Bobbie Gentry, was made into a movie called Ode to Billy Joe, starring Robby Benson, in which the titular Billy falls in love with a character named Bobbie Lee?
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:22 PM on July 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was born in the era of top-40 (it was actually created by an Omahan, which is neither here not there, except that I work at Omaha's historical society.) Undeniably, songs got played to death, but so many 70s songs were so grim it was weirdly hilarious. "Indiana Wants Me" ends with the singer getting shot to death by the police. "Lady D'Arbanville" has Cat Stevens staring at his girlfriend in the grave. "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" climaxes with an innocent man being hanged by the police.

I don't know what was going on the 70s, but the fact that people could listen to these songs a hundred times per day suggests to me that something was amiss.
posted by maxsparber at 12:23 PM on July 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


i was obsessed with that song sometime in the early 90s
Bought the LP used and wore it out!
thanks for this.
posted by wester at 12:25 PM on July 14, 2015


...and don't forget Satan and Adam.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:48 PM on July 14, 2015


Brilliant post. Best rabbit hole I've fallen down in a long time.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:55 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd always assumed it was some kind of end to an unwanted pregnancy, just because that's so often a feature in tragic folk songs.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:04 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm even more fascinated by the mystery of what happened to Bobbie Gentry than by the mysteries of the song itself, fascinating as those are. But apparently I'm not alone in wondering.
posted by mstokes650 at 1:15 PM on July 14, 2015


Weird. I actually wrote a column about this, fifteen years ago. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say they threw the same guy off the bridge that Carly Simon sang about.
posted by valkane at 1:24 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


So it's either that, or the same stuff that was in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.

Could have been what was in the trunk in Repo Man.
posted by Bringer Tom at 1:24 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know what was going on the 70s, but the fact that people could listen to these songs a hundred times per day suggests to me that something was amiss.
Grimdark pop music in the '70s did the same thing in its time as "Creepypasta" on the Web does today. Therefore, it's obvious that it was Slenderman thrown off the bridge.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:34 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


That Jaco Pastorius version (second "and" in line 3) is something else. I'm just listening to that one over and over before I move on to the rest of the list.
Fantastic post!
posted by rocket88 at 1:36 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Amazing post!

> There is nothing like having to listen to the same song over and over and over and over and over and over and over, hour after hour, day after night, week after week to make you want to confess to every murder ever committed, just to never hear that song again.

For me, that song was "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." Late '60s, man—you had to be there.
posted by languagehat at 1:52 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Even French singer Joe Dassin gets in on it with a gender-swapped and surprisingly faithful rendition (both musically and lyrically).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:59 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you’re going to be sort of a one-hit wonder, THIS is the kind of song to do it with. That repetitious but totally catchy guitar riff, the evocative tale being spun, the mystery at the core.

I’m in 7th or 8th grade when the song comes out. We get talking about it in English class. Kids say it’s a baby. Teacher insists that she and Billy Joe were throwing flowers off the bridge. I don’t know if this is because he didn’t want to engage with some (bright) 13 year olds, or if my advanced junior high ENGLISH teacher didn’t get it.

But ugh, I always thought it was a miscarriage/ stillborn. Infanticide would certainly make the narrator more despicable/ less tragic than I’ve always viewed her.

There is nothing like having to listen to the same song over and over

Try sitting through so-called study hall while someone blasts Maggie May repeatedly on the jukebox – I wanted to murder them and Rod Stewart.
posted by NorthernLite at 2:01 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Try sitting through so-called study hall while someone blasts Maggie May repeatedly on the jukebox – I wanted to murder them and Rod Stewart.

I see 86 reasons right here to do this last bit.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:04 PM on July 14, 2015


I was listening to the cotton link last month, and got all interested in the story again.
Also learning the chords.
posted by MtDewd at 2:13 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm clearly some sort of weirdo in that I adore this song and don't have a shred of interest in what they threw off the bridge because good storytelling would explain exactly what it was, but great storytelling leaves enough room to let the listener make the song their own.

I also need not know what the nasty thing was in the woodshed.

Mysteries just highlight that life is unbounded.
posted by sonascope at 2:14 PM on July 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


What about that one thing Meatloaf won't do?
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:27 PM on July 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Did I just imagine that there was a unifying theory involving "Ode to Billie Joe", "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia", and some third early 70's Southern Gothic country ballad? I think someone explained it to me once.

stupid brain
posted by thelonius at 2:27 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Try sitting through so-called study hall while someone blasts Maggie May repeatedly on the jukebox – I wanted to murder them and Rod Stewart.

Wait... you had a jukebox, in your study hall?!
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:00 PM on July 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


What about that one thing Meatloaf won't do?

Or where you can't touch Re Styles?
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:23 PM on July 14, 2015


I heard this and "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" so many times as a child.

Bobby Gentry really was incredible.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:24 PM on July 14, 2015


Edit: D'awww, someone already beat me to the Carly Simon joke.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:29 PM on July 14, 2015


So many creepy 70s songs -- Delta Dawn with an insane woman running around town, Coward Of The County with a gang rape, Gordon Lightfoot creeping round my back door, Wildfire with a dead pony and girl, Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy, with another rape and murder and a Headless Thompson Gunner . . .
posted by jfwlucy at 3:52 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think Bill Murray whispered the answer to Scarlett Johanssen at the end of Lost in Translation.
posted by bendy at 4:37 PM on July 14, 2015


So many creepy 70s songs -- Delta Dawn with an insane woman running around town, Coward Of The County with a gang rape, Gordon Lightfoot creeping round my back door, Wildfire with a dead pony and girl, Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy, with another rape and murder and a Headless Thompson Gunner . . .

Let us never forget Timothy.
posted by tzikeh at 4:41 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


So many creepy 70s songs -- Delta Dawn with an insane woman running around town, Coward Of The County with a gang rape, Gordon Lightfoot creeping round my back door, Wildfire with a dead pony and girl, Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy, with another rape and murder and a Headless Thompson Gunner . . .

"Daddy please don't! We're gonna get married . . . ." *shudder*
posted by The Bellman at 4:48 PM on July 14, 2015


It was David Geffen, right? They threw Davd Geffen off the Tallahatchie Bridge.
posted by sourwookie at 4:49 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


And who can forget "Me and Little Andy"—Dolly Parton's sweet little ditty about child abandonment and death .
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:59 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know what was going on the 70s

There was a bit of a war....

Despite the coyness, it's almost inconceivable that it isn't a fetus/baby. This song comes squarely out of an American white rural music tradition and, as someone above pointed out, the story is stock material for that genre. I think it probably sold better and seemed more interesting to leave it vague.

Someone above also noted that this kind of musical content was akin to today's creepypasta. Also not at all far off. The genre of rural tragedy song we tend to call "murder ballads" is totally dark and scary, but it had social functions - warn people that life contained some sketchy people and situations, help women be wary of men they didn't know well, try to curtail unwed pregnancy. This is really just an extension of that, a little bit of a fey country-pop update.

I really really don't like this song - I might have liked it a little when I was ages eight to twelve or so and it was on the radio all the time. Now it just seems like a somewhat cynical effort to update tradition.
posted by Miko at 5:18 PM on July 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


And who can forget "Me and Little Andy"—Dolly Parton's sweet little ditty about child abandonment and death .

Okay, well I'm having nightmares tonight, thanks a bunch.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:31 PM on July 14, 2015


So many creepy 70s songs -- Delta Dawn with an insane woman running around town, Coward Of The County with a gang rape, Gordon Lightfoot creeping round my back door, Wildfire with a dead pony and girl, Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy, with another rape and murder and a Headless Thompson Gunner . . .

You can't leave out "Angie Baby" by Helen Reddy. I think a lot of the darkness of the music that time was down to Viet Nam and skyjackings and hostages and riots, &c. Like Hunter S. Thompson said, downers came in with Nixon.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:00 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Can't find a video anywhere, but Paul Rudd and Kristen Wigg did an amazing song on SNL several years back called "Ode to Tracking Numbers", played to the tune of "Ode to Billie Joe". Over half the song is them reciting the tracking number for a lost package.
posted by stinkfoot at 6:08 PM on July 14, 2015


Despite the coyness, it's almost inconceivable that it isn't a fetus/baby. This song comes squarely out of an American white rural music tradition and, as someone above pointed out, the story is stock material for that genre. I think it probably sold better and seemed more interesting to leave it vague.

Since I suspect people are more interested in talking about the tunes and discussing the mystery object than reading, I guess I should put the title quote in context. It comes from an interview with Bobbie Gentry:
“The song is sort of a study in unconscious cruelty. But everybody seems more concerned with what was thrown off the bridge than they are with the thoughtlessness of the people expressed in the song. What was thrown off the bridge really isn’t that important.

“Everybody has a different guess about what was thrown off the bridge—flowers, a ring, even a baby. Anyone who hears the song can think what they want, but the real message of the song, if there must be a message, revolves around the nonchalant way the family talks about the suicide. They sit there eating their peas and apple pie and talking, without even realizing that Billie Joe’s girlfriend is sitting at the table, a member of the family.”
posted by Going To Maine at 6:34 PM on July 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Well, yeah. Unconscious cruelty, thoughtlessness and nonchalance about suicide are so commonplace as to not even be worth mentioning. It's just the way we live, full stop. There's nothing shocking there. But a puzzle, with clues to piece together? That can pique interest.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:41 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ellen McIlwaine did the best version. And I am SHOCKED. SHOCKED. That it isn't included in this list.

GOSH.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:46 PM on July 14, 2015


Man! My bad. Still prefer Nancy Wilson, Jackie Wilson, and Jan Akkerman -plus the weirdness of The Residents- but this one definitely deserves to be up there.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:58 PM on July 14, 2015


Another Gentry quote:
“Success is recognition and an open channel for creative energies. But I’m tired of hearing artists say they don’t perform for money. Fame without fortune is empty.”
C.R.E.A.M., yo.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:05 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was 12 when this song came out, and it has haunted me for years. Bobbie Gentry had a perfect voice and look for country music in the 60s, and she did a fine duet album with Glen Campbell.

And believe me, everything was going on in the 70s. Viet Nam, the Cold War, Richard Nixon, disco...
posted by lhauser at 7:07 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Viet Nam, the Cold War, Richard Nixon, disco

One of these things is not like the others.
posted by Bringer Tom at 8:18 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love this song.
posted by thivaia at 8:23 PM on July 14, 2015


The whole thing makes a lot more sense when you realize that Billie Joe is a BASE jumper.
posted by darksasami at 8:25 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of these things is not like the others.
posted by Bringer Tom


Well Nixon did give us the EPA and Endangered Species Act, so his legacy isn't totally shitty.
posted by mcrandello at 12:39 AM on July 15, 2015


Many thanks for a stunning post, Going To Maine.
posted by On the Corner at 12:50 AM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


So many creepy 70s songs -- Delta Dawn with an insane woman running around town, Coward Of The County with a gang rape, Gordon Lightfoot creeping round my back door, Wildfire with a dead pony and girl, Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy, with another rape and murder and a Headless Thompson Gunner . . .
Don't forget The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. We ilked our pop music dark back then.
posted by Lame_username at 1:29 AM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


dark, but fancifully presented:

The Back Side Of Dallas
posted by thelonius at 1:48 AM on July 15, 2015


Well, on the bright side, "Fancy" is definitely the most upbeat song about getting pimped out by your mom in pop music history.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:01 AM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know what was going on the 70s, but the fact that people could listen to these songs a hundred times per day suggests to me that something was amiss.

Well, you know, we also walked uphill to school both ways and didn't mind it, so go figure.

(In all seriousness there were vastly fewer media pre-cable and - internet, and you pretty much just listed to what was on the local music radio station or watched what was one one of the 4 or 5 tv stations you could pick up. Or I guess you played an LP side at a time from the collection of maybe ten or twenty records on the shelf in the living room. This is why so much music I didn't actually choose to listen to from the 60s and 70s is permanently engraved in my brain even after all these years.)
posted by aught at 7:18 AM on July 15, 2015


... "Fancy" is definitely the most upbeat song about getting pimped out by your mom in pop music history.

Lord forgive me but as a naive child listening to a.m. radio I just assumed she was being sent off to find a rich husband.

"Angie Baby" was the one that always got me creeped out. A twilight-zone ep in 4 minutes.
posted by lodurr at 7:54 AM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The creepy song thing really isn't particular to the 70's. Rock drew heavily from the blues, which were not called the happies for a reason. The Stones did Paint it Black and Under my Thumb in the mid-60's. And country music has always had a fondness for telling slice of Americana sometimes-dark stories, which is where Helen Reddy got Delta Dawn and Angie Baby and where Johnny Cash got half of everything he ever sang. And it didn't stop with the 70's either; before they got their divorce from the genre the Dixie Chicks' most recognizable hit was Goodbye Earl after all.
posted by Bringer Tom at 9:57 AM on July 15, 2015


If we're talking about the Stones, we shouldn't forget 1969's Midnight Rambler.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:00 AM on July 15, 2015


The interesting thing about The Residents version is that the core residents were not terribly far away from Gentry in age and grew up in the south. I think one of the things I've always loved about those damn eyeballs is when moments of their humanity slip through. Maybe it's more highlighted by it's usual absence.

But yeah, killer post.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:32 AM on July 15, 2015


So many creepy 70s songs -- Delta Dawn with an insane woman running around town, Coward Of The County with a gang rape, Gordon Lightfoot creeping round my back door, Wildfire with a dead pony and girl, Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy, with another rape and murder and a Headless Thompson Gunner . . .

I was born in 1970 and throughout that decade I found myself deeply affected by these songs and many more. I was an imaginative kid, and rather empathic (the preferred term by the adults around me was "too sensitive"), and the simple act of listening to the radio produced feelings from nagging discomfort to outright terror.

I could never figure out what they dropped off the Tallahatchie Bridge but it haunted the hell out of me. "Cat's in the Cradle" produced a sense of deep grieving that compelled me to switch it off/change the channel the moment I heard it begin. "Aqualung" completely freaked my shit out. "Hotel California" twisted me in about 50,000 directions because I couldn't begin to KNOW what the hell was going on.

And now I collect roadkill and make art from it. Geez mom, I have no idea where it came from either.
posted by k_nemesis at 8:51 AM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Bobbie Gentry had a perfect voice and look for country music in the 60s...

If one never listened to country music and lived in Southern California in the 60s, perhaps...
posted by y2karl at 9:46 AM on July 16, 2015


I was born in 1970 and throughout that decade I found myself deeply affected by these songs and many more. I was an imaginative kid, and rather empathic (the preferred term by the adults around me was "too sensitive"), and the simple act of listening to the radio produced feelings from nagging discomfort to outright terror.

Holy shit yes this was me too. Sometimes it wasn't even the words that got to me - the opening to Dreamweaver and the very last part of Mercy Mercy Me gave me actual damn nightmares.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:57 AM on July 16, 2015


"Cat's in the Cradle" produced a sense of deep grieving that compelled me to switch it off/change the channel the moment I heard it begin.

You and Mason Reese.
posted by aught at 1:05 PM on July 16, 2015


Henry Kaiser did a really creepy version. Starts out fine, then evil creeps into the chords. It's fantastic.

The Henry Kaiser version I definitely shouldn't have missed it.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:59 AM on July 18, 2015


*... "Fancy" is definitely the most upbeat song about getting pimped out by your mom in pop music history.

Lord forgive me but as a naive child listening to a.m. radio I just assumed she was being sent off to find a rich husband. *

According to 33⅓ author Tara Murtha, “Gentry called ‘Fancy’ her statement for women’s lib.”
posted by Going To Maine at 9:04 AM on July 18, 2015


Maybe that's why I was always burying my dolls. I just assumed it was because Mom celebrated my birthday on Halloween to avoid having a September birthday party for me and a November one for my sister.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:37 PM on July 18, 2015


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