My wife recently decided it was time for me to redecorate the living room. She undertook to assist by selecting and buying the materials, moving the furniture out into the garden, doing the plastering and wallpapering and laying a new wooden floor. This left me free for the demanding work of painting the ceiling and trimming the overhanging paper.
I find decorating a mindless, boring and utterly unsatisfying chore and sought some musical accompaniment to steer me through. An album of Classic Country & Western seemed appropriate. With the CD wagons beginning to roll, I set to the task of covering myself in paint.
It began with Lynn Anderson seeking my pardon, as she had never promised me a rose garden. This is true but rather unimportant. I suspect the roses would have been damaged by the wall unit anyway, as my wife can be a bit clumsy when struggling alone with heavy furniture.
Then came “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling”, which contains a line of startling ingenuity. It’s tricky to think of an appropriate rhyme for the word prison. Most lyricists wouldn’t bother. This songsmith, however, managed it. “He made a vow while in state prison/Swore it would be my life or hissum…” I nearly fell off the ladder. How did anybody come up with that? Asthma accompanied by heavy smoking perhaps. And what’s even stranger is that it works.
The next number was sung by a cowboy who had just been killed, following a dispute concerning a Mexican maiden with black eyes. As well as raising certain philosophical and spiritual questions, this left me wondering whether somebody had hit her, or if she’d perhaps fallen over whilst twirling. The dead singer assured me she was an accomplished twirler.
Johnny Cash deserves a special mention. He’s not only a clever singer with a strong voice. He actually makes songs like “Ring of Fire” and “A Thing Called Love” credible.
Contrast this to the impoverished approach of Charley Rich’s “Hey, if you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world”. Why is Mr Rich, when so desperate for his baby, asking me? Why isn’t he trying to talk to her? I suspect that’s why she left. Besides which I did see her, and I married her. So tough luck and grow up.
Shaking my head at the stupidity of the man, I was cheered up immensely by the voice of Tammy Wynette. She was a fine singer. It’s just a shame about the songs. “Blanket On The Ground” was unfortunately not part of this collection. “Stand By Your Man” unfortunately is. It occurred to me, as I absentmindedly scratched my nose with the paintroller, that this song would have been far more interesting if Charley Rich had sung it. “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman, especially if you’re a man…” Perhaps he did, and that’s another reason his baby scarpered.
I had to have a cigarette break at this point, in order to properly consider the message conveyed by Tammy Wynette. They started off together on their blanket, after which she was standing by him. How does this all fit in with the penultimate track on the record, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”? I returned to work before my absence was commented upon.
I was back up the ladder in time to sing along with a very happy sounding Guy Mitchell. The person whistling in the background also seemed marvellously cheerful. If you’re ever feeling slightly depressed or anxious, cheer yourself up by listening to “Heartaches By The Number, Troubles By The Score”. It’s thoroughly enjoyable.
As is “North To Alaska” by Johnny Horton. This song is in a class of its own. It concerns going north to Alaska, and back to Russia’s own. Russia’s own what? Perhaps it’s a Russian who relates, “The river is winding/Big nuggets they’re finding,” because it’s surely not a native speaker of English. And why is every second line accompanied by a shout of “Mush!”? Upon reflection, that question’s unnecessary.
And who is supposed to retrieve the furniture from the garden, now that there’s silence on the prairie and the decorating’s done? Birds are nesting on the bookcase.
With thanks for: Best of Country Vol. 1, ©1988 CBS Records Inc.
Erratum: I’ve been reliably informed that Johnny Horton’s fine song has nothing to do with “Russia’s own”. The lyrics state “the rush is on”. This mistake was caused by my lack of familiarity with the Muscovite accent. With thanks to Christine W.