Join 3,551 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


John Prine
June 3, 2008 11:12 AM   Subscribe

John Prine released John Prine in 1971 with the songs Illegal Smile, Spanish Pipedream, Hello In There, Sam Stone, Paradise, Pretty Good, Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore, Far From Me, Angel From Montgomery, Quiet Man, Donald & Lydia, Six O'clock News and Flashback Blues. An interview from 1971.
posted by stavrogin (38 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice timing. I've had Ain't Hurtin' Nobody stuck in my head for a week. Maybe this will help displace it.
posted by pineapple at 11:16 AM on June 3, 2008


Well now I know which artist I will put my IPod on when I get home. Thanks, stavrogin!
posted by TedW at 11:25 AM on June 3, 2008


Damn, I didn't realize those were all from a single album. That's an awfully strong track list.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:25 AM on June 3, 2008


John Prine belongs in the pantheon of great American singer/songwriters. Even though he's gotten more hit-and-miss in his later years, he can still turn a phrase with the best of them.

On a small aside, when I was in college I was the stage manager for the concert committee. We were responsible for promoting and staging all the popular music concerts on campus. During my tenure, I met many great performers ( Jimmy Buffett, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and many others), but the evening I spent working with John Prine and Steve Goodman was one of the best nights of my life. John and Steve were compadres for a long time, and their mutual admiration was evident. They were two of the most down-to-earth (and funniest) guys I've had the pleasure to meet.

It's great when you end up and even bigger fan after you met the artist.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:33 AM on June 3, 2008


Well done, stavrogin.
posted by mwhybark at 11:40 AM on June 3, 2008


The Carpenters released the Carpenters in 1971 with the songs Rainy Days and Mondays, Superstar, the Bacharach/David Medley and For All We Know. An interview from 1977.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:40 AM on June 3, 2008


Hey babe, ya wanna boogie? Hunh hunh hunh hunh hunh hunh hunh!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:46 AM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


My parents listened to a lot of Prine and Goodman when I was a little kid. As an eight-year-old, the concept of an "illlegal smile" was far outside the scope of my cultural knowledge. I misheard the lyrics as "billy-goat smile" and spent years trying to figure out what the hell that meant.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:48 AM on June 3, 2008


that is a great great album.

When I was a kid my dad used to wander around the house singing "there's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes" over and over again (apparently the one line he could remember). Being a kid, I pictured someone literally rolling up dollar bills and inserting them into a hole in his arm.

I forgot about it for 15 years or so, then one day decided to google the lyric. That's how I got into John Prine.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:02 PM on June 3, 2008


Here's a 1999 two-part (1) (2) interview of John Prine where they talk a bit about that 1971 album as well as about the "meetin', cheatin' and retreatin'" songs from In Spite of Ourselves. And in this interview about Fair and Square, he describes the treatment of his neck cancer: "The radiologist said, uh - he was a fan- and said, um, maybe we could shield your vocal cords so we don't damage them,' and I said, 'Have you ever heard me sing?'"
posted by Killick at 12:02 PM on June 3, 2008


Speed of the Sound of Loneliness is a beautiful song, and that's an A+ haircut to boot
posted by Simon! at 12:06 PM on June 3, 2008


Bright Eyes covers "Crazy as a Loon"
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:21 PM on June 3, 2008


I apparently had never heard of the man until now, but i've become an instant fan. This day is starting of wonderfully. Thanks!
posted by Stunt at 12:23 PM on June 3, 2008


I was introduced to his music at Christmas, a couple years back. My brother in law was playing Sam Stone in the background. It was an interesting Christmas.

I'm at work, so I don't know how good the clip is.
posted by khaibit at 1:05 PM on June 3, 2008


ah, one of the best debut albums of all time - "Sam Stone" just ruins me every time I hear it - one of the most poignant war songs I know - thanks for this

ever hear of how he was "discovered"? he had been playing Chicago folk clubs & had gotten to be friends with Steve Goodman who, at the time, was doing opening gigs for Kris Kristofferson - so Steve says, he says, "Kris, you gotta come see my pal John play" - so Kris & Steve & Paul Anka (!) all go to see Johnny play at this club & arrive late after the show - so late that apparently Johnny has fallen asleep under a table somewhere & they drag him out & ask him to play, & so he does, just for them - and wow their socks off completely with all of his amazing amazingness & so Kris he goes on over to Atlantic Records & says, he says, "Give this boy a record deal!" - and they do

true story.
posted by jammy at 1:08 PM on June 3, 2008


Happy Enchilada

I went to his show here in Minneapolis this April. The years really haven't been kind to him, but he was still just as good as when I saw him play in Nashville about 10 years ago. In fact, the performance was so good that he got a standing ovation before he even started playing.
posted by dsword at 1:11 PM on June 3, 2008


John Prine is hands down America's greatest songwriter. He's been in failing health in recent years, but still gets out there and sings. After his throat cancer, he had a radical neck dissection which changed the register of his voice dramatically, but gave his songs a new flavor.

Last time I saw him, he really didn't look good physically, although he put on a great show, smiled and joked and had a lot of energy. I just fear he's not going to be up for performing much longer. I really really hope he gets to see some of the widespread appreciation he deserves. Seriously, people check him out and tell your friends while you can.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:26 PM on June 3, 2008


There's a hole in daddy's arm
Where the money goes.
Jesus Christ died for nothin'
I suppose.


Always gives me goose-bumps. Too bad Johhny Cash felt he had to bawdlerize it.

Great post!
posted by chillmost at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2008


Great post. It amazes me how obscure Prine remains. People either know and love his music, or they have no idea who he is. He is a far superior songwriter to Dylan in my opinion. My all time favorite, Christmas in Prison, isn't on this album. It's worth seeking out.

She reminds me of a chess game
With someone I admire
Or a picnic in the rain
After a prairie fire
Her heart is as big
As this whole goddamn jail
And she's sweeter than saccharine
At a drug store sale.

posted by Brodiggitty at 2:03 PM on June 3, 2008


His most recent album is pretty damn good.
posted by 2sheets at 2:06 PM on June 3, 2008


He is a far superior songwriter to Dylan in my opinion

whoaa, careful son
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:37 PM on June 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


He is a far superior songwriter to Dylan in my opinion

I have often heard him described as "the next Dylan" in writings from that era and never quite got it. I mean, they both have a folksy/country sound for the most part, but to me they are very different lyrically. I like them both; anyway, art isn't a race with someone coming in first, second, or third.

As for John Prine anecdotes, mine is that I was introduced to him by the same guy who ended up marrying my first wife (4 months after we divorced). So the guy in question did me a couple of nice favors.
posted by TedW at 3:07 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, he's certainly got a better musical sensibility than Dylan. Prine seems to speak more to the common man's heart, writing about your basic love and loss, regret and happiness. And he does it in such a direct "Aw shucks" kind of way that it's just impossible to not identify exactly with the emotion he's writing about. It's simple language but it's all that's needed to see the beauty in his world.

Consider In Spite of Ourselves:

She don't like her eggs all runny
She thinks crossin' her legs is funny
She looks down her nose at money
She gets it on like the Easter Bunny
She's my baby I'm her honey
I'm never gonna let her go

He ain't got laid in a month of Sundays
I caught him once and he was sniffin' my undies
He ain't too sharp but he gets things done
Drinks his beer like it's oxygen
He's my baby
And I'm his honey
Never gonna let him go

In spite of ourselves
We'll end up a'sittin' on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we're the big door prize
We're gonna spite our noses
Right off of our faces
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.

She thinks all my jokes are corny
Convict movies make her horny
She likes ketchup on her scrambled eggs
Swears like a sailor when shaves her legs
She takes a lickin'
And keeps on tickin'
I'm never gonna let her go.

He's got more balls than a big brass monkey
He's a whacked out weirdo and a lovebug junkie
Sly as a fox and crazy as a loon
Payday comes and he's howlin' at the moon
He's my baby I don't mean maybe
Never gonna let him go

In spite of ourselves
We'll end up a sittin' on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we're the big door prize
We're gonna spite our noses
Right off of our faces
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.


Dumb song about growing old with someone and all their faults. Ketchup on eggs and sniffin' undies. But it's got a lovely finger picking pattern, the words roll out, and it says so much to anyone whose ever been in a happy long term relationship. It's easily the most romantic song I've ever heard.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:16 PM on June 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Illegal Smile" is the best campfire song EVER.

I <3 John Prine.

I was just tryin' to have me some fun
well done
hot dog bun
my sister's a nun
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:08 PM on June 3, 2008


Attila the Hun

In concert, he adds about thirty different rhymes to the ending. It's always funny.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:44 PM on June 3, 2008


i'm with slack a go-go on this (i think). posts like this are kind of plug-and-play, so i don't get what makes them best of the web. on the other hand, prine is a genius. if a shooting-fish-in-a-barrel post turns even one person on to him, then i guess it's worth it.
posted by msconduct at 4:49 PM on June 3, 2008


Dumb song about growing old with someone and all their faults.

Nothing dumb about it. Me & Pips consider it the theme song of our mairrage.
posted by jonmc at 5:14 PM on June 3, 2008


When I was a kid my dad used to wander around the house singing "there's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes" over and over again . . .

Hee. This -- in fact, this whole post -- reminds me of my godmother throwing an arm around my shoulders, swaying us both along, raising her beer and shouting over the music, "You may see me tonight with an il-legal smile . . ." This shook me out of many a sullen teenage mood. She was also the one that told me the "happy enchilada" story, and still tells it.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:57 PM on June 3, 2008


I saw John Prine at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1989 and '91, I think, and I regret now that I didn't enjoy listening to him more. My mom had his albums, and she would make us listen to them in the car on long trips (along with Meatloaf, but we won't speak of that). He has grown on me so much since then.
posted by amj at 5:59 PM on June 3, 2008


I'd never heard of John Prine until a few years ago when I was flipping through the channels late at night and saw him on Austin City Limits. He was playing "Some Humans Ain't Human" and got to the lyrics:

Have you ever noticed
When you're feeling really good
There's always a pigeon
That'll come shit on your hood

Or you're feeling your freedom
And the world's off your back
Some cowboy from Texas
Starts his own war in Iraq

Some humans ain't human
Some people ain't kind
They lie through their teeth
With their head up their behind
You open up their hearts
And here's what you'll find
Some humans ain't human
Some people ain't kind

I couldn't help a tear from welling up. People say that time hasn't been kind to him, but as a fan who only knows him in his current condition I can say that to me he's a sage.
posted by Demogorgon at 6:21 PM on June 3, 2008


Aww, hell yeah, Prine's one of the greats. A treasure.

BTW, here's a video of the hilarious In Spite of Ourselves (lyrics posted by Slarty Bertfast upthread), with the wonderful Iris Dement.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:28 PM on June 3, 2008


And while we're at it, two more Prine/Dement numbers:

Let's Invite Them Over and We're Not The Jet Set.

They make a fine onstage couple!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:32 PM on June 3, 2008



Nothing dumb about it. Me & Pips consider it the theme song of our mairrage.


Last time I saw him he made a joke about the number of weddings he'd been asked to play that at.

Ditto for me and my little bug
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:40 PM on June 3, 2008


need some oxygen?

*passes Slarty a beer*

(also, on the other side of the coin, this song was ranked at #11 on my 'All-Time Favorite Songs' blog last year since it's, IMHO, the best country breakup song ever, especially since it avoids cliche so well, while still tugging at the heartstrings so well.)
posted by jonmc at 7:44 PM on June 3, 2008


My wife and I used "In Spite of Ourselves" as our wedding song.
That is all.
posted by Balisong at 8:02 PM on June 3, 2008


I love John Prine.

That is all.
posted by Danf at 8:17 PM on June 3, 2008


My favorite is Dear Abby. I sing it to myself at night while trying to get to sleep. Signed, bewildered.
posted by wv kay in ga at 10:52 PM on June 3, 2008


Yeah that whole album is the kind of thing that makes most songwriters stop and reconsider.

I learned about John Prine when I was 17, listening to a local punk-country group called the Beat Farmers -- they did a few of those songs.

There are so many Prine albums. One that usually isn't mentioned that I love so much is called "Pink Cadillac." It's kind of a Hank Williams/Rockabilly/Cold War thing. Terribly recorded. I listen to it all the time.
posted by kenlayne at 11:09 PM on June 3, 2008


« Older German newspaper Der Spiegel decided to take a loo...  |  "I can only answer in the nega... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments