Saturday, May 25, 2024

What the HELL is He Singing About?

When I first decided to share this record, "The Rocking Chair Brand", it was mostly because of Billy Grey's forced, borderline obnoxious fake southern/western cowboy accent. Near the end of that first play, though, my ears perked up. "When did the lyrics move in THAT direction?", I thought. 

I've listened several more times, and I'm just befuddled. I guess he's singing about being a cowboy who's just about ready to die. All the lines about payday and helping his pals confused me, but I think he's promising to send them fortunate outcomes from the great beyond. I guess. He wants to apologize to St. Peter for taking so long to get there - see, he is working on improving his soul. Then he tells us where he'd like to be buried, and if that line isn't from out of left field, nothing is. Oh, but forget that, because now he'd liked to be cremated. If they find a place to park, that is. Oh, and then he throws in the title for the first and only time during the fadeout, for no apparent reason. 

A true masterpiece of oddness.  

Download: Billy Grey - The Rocking Chair Brand

Play: 

The flip side is "Shadow Dance". Maybe I'm completely off base here, but as this record dates from the early 1970's, the backing track sounds to me like the band wanted to tap into some of what Marvin Gaye was doing, musically, on the "What's Going On" album (throughout, but especially in those first ten seconds), but clearly were nowhere near  up to the task. 

The dance in question appears to involve nothing more than shaking your hands in front of a fire. The lyrics are truly minimal here: aside from riffing on individual lines from the verse, there are, by my count, only four lines to the entire song. And this gives the band (guitar, bass, drums) a chance to indulge in a solo section of approximately 1/3rd of the length of the record - over 50 seconds, during which the bass player and the guitarist do not seem to be remotely in agreement about what the chord changes are. 

Download: Billy Grey - Shadow Dance

Play: 



2 comments:

Stu Shea said...

Bob,

I really liked this 45.

Not because it's competent, because it isn't, or that he's a good singer, which he...
and the material is ridiculous.

Somehow, though, I still dig both sides. Side A really spins out of control at the bridge, and I did two spit-takes. I like song-poems that deliver bellylaughs.

The B side actually has a loose, raw funk beat that people still like. Someone could build the opening ten seconds into a killer sample.

As you noted, the band sounds it like it didn't learn the chords. Or maybe they were geniuses who said, "Fuck it, who needs chords? Play it like the Fugs, just work around G for a minute or so."

Nah.

Anyways, their low-rent interpretation of R&B matches the lyrics, which seem to me like a "come-on," given perhaps at an illegal party in a dangerous part of town.

How can I possibly like a record in which I don't like the lyrics, music, or performance? I think, the funk beat on the b-side nonwithstanding, that it's the sheer incompetence of the entire enterprise. It delivered a ridiculous (and in places hilarious) product from a terrible idea.

What that means, I don't know. But thank you!!!

Timmy said...

Yeah, a double sided smash. I'd pay fer a sit down on them ol' rockin' seats..........