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The day my mama socked it to the Harper Valley PTA
April 24, 2008 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes, when you've had your fill of people basking in the golden light of their self-righteous indignation, you just wanna hear a song about somebody telling those holier-than-thou-ers where to get off. Something like, say, Harper Valley PTA.

Here's Jeannie C. in another performance of the song, a stylish (very sixties) B&W version, from a TV spot.

Here's the lyrics. Too young to remember Peyton Place, referenced in the last verse? See here, here and here.

And how 'bout those gold boots and matching minidress Jeannie C. was sporting in that live clip, eh? Couldn't help but remind me of Nancy Sinatra in similar attire, performing (what else?) These Boots Are Made for Walking, from 1966.

When Harper Valley PTA (written by Tom T. Hall) was released in 1968, it hit #1 on both the Billboard country AND pop charts, which was an historical first. Read all about it!

Jeannie C. Riley Wikipedia page and her official website.

Dolly Parton's cover version.

Country great Loretta Lynn has covered this song as well, but I couldn't find her version on the web. Here she is with Jeannie C. Riley, though, doing Don't Come Home a'Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind) .

The Riley Wikipedia page mentions her battles with depression. There's a bit more on that here.

NOTE: FPP wording lifted wholesale from flashboy's MeTa comment here. Thanks, flashboy!
posted by flapjax at midnite (39 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've always liked Dolly Parton's version. The staccato (is that the right word?) guitars are strange and sound like some sort of post-punk thing.
posted by Falconetti at 6:42 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


There was actually a sequel called 'harper valley, Later that same day...' by Ben Colder and a nice soul cover by Mary Jane Hooper. Just in case you were wondering.
posted by jonmc at 6:44 PM on April 24, 2008


(is that the right word?)

Actually, falconetti, staccato isn't the right word. I don't have any good suggestion for the right word, though, except perhaps... unexpected. The guitar part is rather strange indeed, especially around the beginning of the song. He sounds drunk! Kind of astonishing they left that in, actually!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:49 PM on April 24, 2008


Don't forget the movie starring Barbara Eden.
posted by rfs at 6:50 PM on April 24, 2008


I always choose Harper Valley PTA when it's karaoke time. I'm in nowhere near Jeannie C. Riley's range but that don't stop me, oh no.

And when you sing it, you gotsta shake it.
posted by Spatch at 7:04 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Flapjax, you're my new best friend. A fresh, surprising, now resonant visit from something I remembered from the background of my youth.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:20 PM on April 24, 2008


Ooh, this brings back memories. Also, for you younguns, that last phrase about the day her momma "socked it to" the Harper Valley PTA was a reference to a catch phrase from the show "Laugh-In." (The phrase being "Sock it to me". Yeah, you kinda had to be there but still.
posted by konolia at 7:31 PM on April 24, 2008


I never paid that much attention to this song before, but Falconetti is right (and thanks to flapjax for drawing further attention to it [and for the post itself]) that the guitar part in the beginning of the Dolly Parton version is bizarre and fascinating. It's entirely out of place but I find myself enthralled by it. It's like I've never heard the song before.

Slowly this site is helping me decode the whole world.
posted by penduluum at 7:37 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


...a reference to a catch phrase from the show "Laugh-In." (The phrase being "Sock it to me".)

See also: Aretha Franklin, in 1967's "Respect" sings:

"sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me..."

That's right, 8 times, in rapid fire succession.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:49 PM on April 24, 2008


ya! country music!

Hank Williams: Lovesick Blues
Hank Williams - Cold Cold Heart/I Can't Help It...
Dolly Parton - Jolene
Johnny Cash, Live@ S.Quentin - Folsom Prison Blues
Willie Nelson - Ray Charles - Seven Spanish Angels(always makes me cry)
Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard...Pancho and Lefty

... and Kazuo Umezu!
posted by eatdonuts at 8:02 PM on April 24, 2008


See also: Aretha Franklin, in 1967's "Respect"

See also: MItch Ryder's "Sock It To Me Baby" of the same year. It was a big year for socks.
posted by jonmc at 8:13 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


For some reason, I always confuse that song with Ode to Billy Joe... Maybe on the pop culture map, the Talahatci bridge is very close to Harper Valley.
posted by drezdn at 8:29 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nixon, too.
posted by pracowity at 8:31 PM on April 24, 2008


NOTE: FPP wording lifted wholesale from flashboy's MeTa comment here. Thanks, flashboy!

I see what you did there. Nice post -- thanks to both of you!
posted by trip and a half at 8:33 PM on April 24, 2008


"sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me..."

That's right, 8 times, in rapid fire succession.


Respect has the 2nd best ever background vocals in a RnB tune.

Ist prize goes to the "Mmm Hmm"s in Fontella Bass's Rescue Me.

Didjaknow she was Mrs. Lester Bowie?

Thanks Flaps, for again doing the heavy youtube diving. And Harper Valley PTA had just come up in conversation recently, so it's timely, too.
-
posted by Herodios at 8:37 PM on April 24, 2008


this is a killer tune. and tom t hall was a king amongst songwriters. and i'm going to see dolly next week.
posted by snofoam at 8:46 PM on April 24, 2008


skip a rope
posted by pyramid termite at 8:47 PM on April 24, 2008


and for those who find that a bit too sad, tennessee bird walk
posted by pyramid termite at 8:49 PM on April 24, 2008


For some reason, I always confuse that song with Ode to Billy Joe ...

Did someone mention Ode To Billy Joe?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:54 PM on April 24, 2008


Ooo! Ooo! Ode to Billy Joe! One of my favorites (and please -- no links needed to the Robby Benson film) of all time. Bobby Gentry was about the hottest thing going in those days. Take a look for yourself. Great lyrics, great melody, great backing orchestration, great legs.
posted by bigskyguy at 8:58 PM on April 24, 2008


Well, a wonderfully wasted night watching country greats. Thanks for some links. Billy Ray Cyrus has a Harper Valley PTA cover out there but I didn't find it. (you're welcome)

And Sinead O'Connor's version of Ode To Billy Joe kind of haunts me.

But, and this is stuff I think about, what did 23 year old country girl Jeannie C. Riley even think about, what went through her mind, getting knocked off the pop charts by Those English Lads and that song.
I just know she hit the stratosphere hard and fast and looked good doing it and lived to tell about it.
posted by Cedric at 9:42 PM on April 24, 2008


Harper Valley PTA was the second grown-up song I learned all the words to. It's without a doubt my favorite song to belt at the top of my lungs in the shower.

You know, all of a sudden, my hair feels like it needs a washing...
posted by jacquilynne at 9:49 PM on April 24, 2008


And all this time I thought it was just me.
posted by wv kay in ga at 10:13 PM on April 24, 2008


The color version skips a whole verse of bad behavior from the townspeople
posted by jfrancis at 11:23 PM on April 24, 2008


Don't forget the movie starring Barbara Eden.

I'll see your movie and raise you one TV show

It also starred Barbara Eden and lasted, it appears, about one whole season: 1981-1982.
posted by Clay201 at 12:30 AM on April 25, 2008


At school we had a german teacher who tried to be cool. He taught us to say 'Socke es mir'.
posted by surfdad at 4:38 AM on April 25, 2008


I know we've all heard enough pedo stories lately, but I just can't hear the name Tom T Hall or listen to his songs anymore without thinking of another. It seems that a friends of mine's father and Tom T were drinking buddies back in Louisiana. Uncle Tom would get soused and then have my friend and his brother sit on his lap. This continued well into where the boys were a little too old to be sitting on a man's lap if you get my drift.

Boys and girls take warning, if you go near the lake
Keep your eyes wide open, and look for Sneaky Snake
Now maybe you won't see him, maybe you won't hear
But he'll sneak up behind you, and drink all your root beer


Boys and girls take warning indeed!
posted by Pollomacho at 5:16 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's another "sock it to me" useage in the awesome 1972 Troglodyte, by the Jimmy Castor Bunch.

I'll sock it to you, Daddy!
posted by orange swan at 5:55 AM on April 25, 2008


Its shocking to find;
That your mind;
And your behind;
Get a spanking in time.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:00 AM on April 25, 2008


For some reason, I always confuse that song with Ode to Billy Joe... Maybe on the pop culture map, the Talahatci bridge is very close to Harper Valley.

I'd never heard this one, but for the first few seconds I thought it was some sort of parody of Ode to Billie Joe.

(The tunes are similar, and they both start off with someone talking to their mama. It's not much, but I guess it was enough...)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:21 AM on April 25, 2008


Respect has the 2nd best ever background vocals in a RnB tune... 1st prize goes to the "Mmm Hmm"s in Fontella Bass's Rescue Me

I dunno, I'm partial to Patti LaBelle's Lady Marmalade.

Hey sister, go sister, soul sister, flow sister Hey sister, go sister, soul sister, go sister.
posted by psmealey at 7:28 AM on April 25, 2008


Dolly pwns as usual.
posted by owhydididoit at 7:36 AM on April 25, 2008


I am proud to say that the very first concert I ever saw was Jeannie C. Reilly and Tom T. Hall. Some time around 1980, in northeast TN. When I was a teen I shunned country music, but it's crept back into my life over the last decade. Classic country that is. It's a shame that so many of the greats are dying off.
posted by kimdog at 7:43 AM on April 25, 2008


exposure of hypocrisy is always fun, even if it is just a song
posted by caddis at 9:17 AM on April 25, 2008


I've always liked Dolly Parton's version. The staccato (is that the right word?) guitars are strange and sound like some sort of post-punk thing.

The guitar part is rather strange indeed, especially around the beginning


Dudes, it just sounds like some crazy chicken-pickin' to me.
posted by Herodios at 12:06 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm partial to Patti LaBelle's Lady Marmalade

One of my faves! The chorus is the best:

Guiche guiche yaya, dada
Guiche guiche yaya, dada, here
Mocha chocalata yaya
Creole Lady Marmalade

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?

Co-written by Bob Crewe, who also wrote or co-wrote tons of other cool stuff. So much that I'm not gonna list it here. Instead, look for the upcoming Bob Crewe FPP.
posted by Herodios at 1:07 PM on April 25, 2008


Didjaknow she was Mrs. Lester Bowie?

I did not know that, but I knew she hung out with the Art Ensemble of Chicago after her R&B one-hit-wonder days.
posted by jonp72 at 8:00 AM on April 26, 2008


Respect has the 2nd best ever background vocals in a RnB tune... 1st prize goes to the "Mmm Hmm"s in Fontella Bass's Rescue Me

Midnight Train To Georgia has to rank high up there on that list. Whoo-whooo!
posted by Spatch at 8:41 AM on April 26, 2008



Jonp72, I have those records! My fave bit is "Ole Jed" from Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass.

I don't see any clips of Fontella with AEC online, but check this out: Fontella Bass and Lyle Lovett duet on Don't Mess Up A Good Thing on Night Music w/ David Sanborn, Jools Holland, Hiram Bullock, Omar Hakim and is that George Duke on keyboards?
posted by Herodios at 8:45 AM on April 26, 2008


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