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Category Archives: kenny rogers

You’d have to be pretty stellar before I let you cling to my arms. I need those for punching things.

I had to cover the reception desk today. I do that a number of times a week. It’s because I’m super-skilled at phone-answering. I almost never say what I’m thinking. In case you’re wondering, that’s the trick of being a good receptionist.

GOOD RECEPTIONIST:

You: Good afternoon, Company That Is Sucking my Lifeblood!
Caller: I AM DISGRUNTLED. GRUMP GRUMP GRUMP. IT IS OBVIOUSLY YOUR FAULT EVEN THOUGH YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO I AM.
You: And who usually assists you in these matters, sir?
Caller: Bob McGee. (Not anyone I work with’s real name. Do you think I WANT to live in my car?)
You: Let me see if Bob is available. Just a moment, please.

BAD RECEPTIONIST:

You: Hello.
Caller: Is this Company That is Sucking Your Lifeblood?
You: Yes. *SIGH* How can I HELP you.
Caller: I AM DISGRUNTLED. GRUMP GRUMP GRUMP. IT IS…
You: I’m sorry, SIR, but I’m just the RECEPTIONIST, and I can’t even HELP you with that, WHAT THE HELL. Did you think you were just going to reach whoever you were calling the first call you MADE? What is this, 1902? Give me a break. Go hop a horse and buggy down to the soda fountain.
Caller: I…uh…
You: WHO ARE YOU CALLING FOR.
Caller: Bob…McGee?
You: Are you quite sure? You sound hesitant.
Caller: Yes?
You: That upward inflection in your voice isn’t doing you any favors. Bob’s busy. Here’s his voicemail. Don’t call here again.

So, yeah, I don’t do those things. I WANT to, don’t get me WRONG, but I have been told I have a VERY PLEASANT PHONE VOICE. It’s like the only thing I get complimented on in my yearly evaluations, so don’t you even take that away from me, IT IS MY CLAIM TO FAME.

Anyway, the receptionist likes the country channel a lot so the radio is always playing it when I go up there and I don’t know how to turn it off. I tried once and she got really mad because I accidentally tuned it to the God channel. It wasn’t even on purpose. Did she think I WANTED to listen to the God channel for an hour? Who would want THAT shit? Well, a lot of people, if there’s a channel, I suppose, but I’m not one of them.

Then this song came on and I seriously spit-took my water because it had what was, I was sure, the BEST LYRIC EVER WRITTEN.

It was some song giving either advice or support to women at different ages and at one point it was all, “This is to all the girls about forty-two!” (Let’s not even talk about how I hate when people refer to themselves as “girls” when they’re over the age of, say, twenty. You are a woman, dammit, own that.) “Tossing PANTIES into the fountain of YOUTH!”

TOSSING PANTIES INTO THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH.

That is BRILLIANT. That is totally what forty-two year old “girls” would toss into the fountain of youth. Skanky panties. Because who WOULDN’T do that? AWESOME.

So I laughed and laughed and imagined my favorite fountain of all time, the Trevi Fountain in Rome, and all the women turning their backs and just HUCKING panties into it and then I laughed some more when I thought of the poor maintenance workers every morning, all, “Mamma mia! So many biancheria intima! So messy!” And just shaking their little old Italian heads.

Imagine this all filled with panties. WHAT. It's FUNNY.

So tonight I came home all “let’s talk about PANTIES on here today, whoo those crazy country songs” and looked it up and, as I’m sure most of you know, THAT ISN’T EVEN THE EFFING LYRIC.

PENNIES. It’s PENNIES. It’s “tossing PENNIES into the fountain of youth.”

Of COURSE it’s pennies. Who tosses PANTIES into a fountain?

Whoever the hell Martina McBride is, chick needs to learn to ENUNCIATE. Pennies should NOT sound like pennies, even if you DO have a Southern accent. It is EMBARRASSING.

But it’s totally funny. And now whenever you hear that song you’re not going to be able to hear anything but panties. TRY IT. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.

I found this on Google Images. Apparently, there was some sort of protest that necessitated the throwing of panties. Look how HAPPY they all look. They are totally throwing those panties into the Fountain of Youth. WITH JOY.

Then I was thinking, you know what? Country songs give a lot of advice. Like, a lot more than pop music. There’s that song about the pennies or panties or whatever, which, either way, that is COLOSSALLY bad advice. You found the damn FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH and you are throwing GARBAGE in it? BOTTLE and SELL that shit. DAMN.

Then you’ve got my man Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.” (This was before he got scary-face so it’s ok I like this song.) So in this song, in case you’re one of the three people in the world who isn’t aware of it, a man meets a gambler on a train and the gambler says, hey, share your whiskey, I’ll talk your ear off with shitty advice. That damn gambler. He was FILLED TO THE BRIM with advice. But at least he asked the guy he was riding the train with if he COULD give the advice first. The dumbass said yes, that was his first mistake. You never tell an old wino you’ll take his advice. You’re in for a long night of BORING DRUNK STORIES.

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away and know when to run
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealing’s done

THAT IS  A LOT OF ADVICE GAMBLER. But it’s good advice! However, it’s all pretty self-explanatory. What piss-poor gambler doesn’t already know this stuff?

Oh, wait. Is he talking about GAMBLING? Or LIFE? DUN DUN DUNNNNN. I know, right? Is he a DRUNK? Or a PHILOSOPHER? Well, let’s see! Is he done talking?

Oh, don’t worry. No. The gambler’s not done talking. Drunks on trains never are.

Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep

Ugh, GAMBLER, you are SO DEPRESSING. You’re just reiterating the same shit you already SAID, then you’re all, “Whatever, the sweet, sweet embrace of death AWAITS US ALL.”

I’m still not sure if it’s about cards or life. If it’s metaphor or a simile or even a euphemism, it’s not a very good one.

THEN THE GAMBLER EFFING DIES.

I know, right? This song is filled with advice and also sadness and dead alcoholics with gambling addictions.

I totally love this song.

Then we have the song that little Amy’s mom used to sing to her when she was little. I don’t think because she was trying to indoctrinate little Amy. But because she liked the song. And listen! I like the SOUND of the song. But MAN the lyrics are worrisome. I of course am talking about Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man.”

What advice does Tammy give us in this song?

Sometimes its hard to be a woman

YES IT IS TAMMY

Giving all your love to just one man

Wait, what? I gots me some wild OATS, though. What about my wild OATS?

You’ll have bad times
And he’ll have good times

These can’t be the lyrics, can they? I’ll have bad times, and he’ll have good ones? When do I get to see the sailboat?

Doing things that you don’t understand

Math? Auto repair? Watching television with his hands in his pants? Picking his nose and then looking at it as if it’s going to be a surprise, what he found in there? Giggling about farts?

But if you love him you’ll forgive him

Um…I guess…depends on what he’s done, though? Right?

Even though he’s hard to understand

Oh, shit, I totally married someone with a speech impediment, this is the worst.

And if you love him
Oh be proud of him

I love a lot of people I’m not PROUD of, per se. Can the two not be mutually exclusive?

‘Cause, after all, he’s just a man

Wah-WAH! He’s JUST A MAN. That sounds like a horrible punchline of something my grandmother would tell me.

Stand by your man
Give him two arms to cling to

Why is he “clinging” to my arms? I need those for things. Is he having trouble standing upright? Oh, my good gravy, did I marry someone mushmouthed AND with a problem staying upright for long periods of time?

And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely

I kind of take offense at being referred to as “something.” I’M SOMEBODY DAMMIT. And why am I the one who needs to be a little stove? Why can’t HE be the warm one? This is the worst marriage ever.

Stand by your man
And tell the world you love him

Ugh, the whole WORLD? That seems like a lot of work. I mean, I have to be a little STOVE, I have to stand still for all the ARM-GRIPPING, I have to decipher what he’s SAYING…I don’t get a lot of free time here, do I?

Keep giving all the love you can

How much love is that, exactly? All that I CAN. I can’t give much. I have a lot of plates spinning at the moment.

Stand by your man
Stand by your man

I GET IT I GET IT JEEZ

And show the world you love him

Wait, SHOW the world I love him? Now I have to SHOW the world? What, get a face tattoo? Make a sex tape? Knit a “I love Harold” sweater and wear it every-damn-where? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?

Keep giving all the love you can

I don’t ever get to STOP? I guess the gambler was right and I can only hope for the sweet, sweet release of sleep-death.

Stand by your man!

I DON’T WANT TO THIS IS TOO HARD

I am totally the most depressed after that and probably want to stay single forever now. Let’s turn to The Eagles, and one of those songs I can NOT resist and I have to sing along to no matter what. And I was totally mad when they used it in Seinfeld that time because I hate Seinfeld with the fire of a thousand suns (DON’T EVEN START WITH ME IT WAS NOT FUNNY) and they tried to RUIN MY GOOD SONG.

Yes, yes, it’s “Desperado.” Shut up, like you don’t love this. EVERYONE LOVES THIS.

Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
You been out riding fences for so long now

See? That’s nice. That’s good advice! That poor desperado. He should come in from the bad weather and have a sandwich.

Oh, you’re a hard one

Hee! Euphemism.

But I know that you got your reasons

If you continue with the euphemism, that’s still funny. If you take it in the spirit it was intended, it’s totally sad.

These things that are pleasing you
Can hurt you somehow

You can still euphemism that. Or not. Up to you.

Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy
She’ll beat you if she’s able

This is NOT ABOUT CARDS. You know that drunk gambler would be all “KNOW WHEN TO HOLD EM!” but it’s totally about WOMENFOLKS.

You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet

Aw! ’cause, love!

Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can’t get.

HOLY SHIT. You and me BOTH, Desperado. YOU AND ME BOTH. (I totally sing this line the loudest because I love it the most.)

Desperado, oh, you ain’t getting no younger

Way to be rude, singer. You don’t just say that to people. He probably has a knife right in his boot. Desperadoes are totally willing to shiv you if you insult them by calling them oldtimey.

Your pain and your hunger, they’re driving you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, that’s just some people talking
Your prison is walking through this world all alone

This part is depressing as hell. We’ve got this old as hell cowboy all hungry and in pain and in chains and lonely and in prison. This is NOT A HAPPY SONG. (That’s why I love it so.)

Don’t your feet get cold in the wintertime?
The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine
It’s hard to tell the night time from the day
You’re losing all your highs and lows
Ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away?

Now he’s COLD and all weather is the SAME and there is not a lot of advice right now. SOMEONE GIVE THE DESPERADO SOME ADVICE OR HE’LL TOTALLY SHIV YOU.

Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?

YES. Time for advice-givin’!

Come down from your fences, open the gate

The GATE is his EMOTIONS. This is a totally deep song.

It may be raining, but there’s a rainbow above you

I…I’m not sure. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel? Goonies never say die? I don’t know what the hell.

You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late

I’ll totally love up on a desperado. I’m down with ruggedy-ness. Also, they usually have horses, then I know my fella would like animals so he’d be down with my plan for my rescue home for all the animals in the woods, see? I’m always thinking.

So what did we learn today? To…hold ’em and fold ’em, dependent on ’em? To die in our sleep? To not marry people with speech impediments who can’t stand on their own two feet for extended periods of time? That The Eagles loved a good euphemism?

Nope. What we LEARNED is that the mental image of throwing PANTIES into a FOUNTAIN is HYSTERICAL.

Oh, come on, try to deny it. You totally can’t. It’s just that funny.

THANK YOU COUNTRY MUSIC.

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I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

Although today you’re more likely to find me listening to either Broadway showtunes or random indie music, I grew up on a steady diet of old-school country. One of my earliest memories is dancing around in my sockfeet with my grandfather to “Little Brown Jug” on his old record player. My mother was a big fan of country music, and she was a stay-at-home-mom for my formative years, so that’s what we usually listened to together. I still get chills when Johnny Cash rasps out that he shot a man in Reno just to watch him die (seriously, one of the most brilliant lines in a song ever written – just imagine that, imagine the cold-heartedness of that, the calculatedness, the scientific analysis; he didn’t have anything against the person, not specifically, but he just wanted to watch him die. Whoo. Poetry. Chills.) I can’t help but sing along with Tammy Wynette or Dolly Parton when they come on the radio. They’re in my blood. I grew up with them. They’re like family to me.
I’m not averse to new country (Brad Paisley makes me laugh out loud, he just seems to be so joyful in what he does, and if you can listen to Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl” without bawling your eyes out, your soul is missing. It is heartwrenching) but most of it doesn’t hit me like old country does. It sounds too much like pop. I don’t dislike Taylor Swift, she’s as cute as a button, but she’s not singing country. There’s no twang to it, Taylor. It’s pop in a country package. I feel the same way about Carrie Underwood and Faith Hill and that foolish girl from American Idol who didn’t know how to pronounce salmon. (SAL-mon? SAL-mon? What’s SAL-mon? We get it, Kelly, you’re a rube. Aw. Aren’t you cute.) And don’t get me started on Hootie. Listen, Hootie. You may have re-labeled yourself as a country singer, but you still sound exactly the same. It’s not country. It’s pop. And you might be going by Darius Rucker now, but, just like Marky Mark trying to pass himself off as Mark Wahlberg, we know who you really are. (Off topic, but it makes me much too happy that the second thing to pop up on Google when searching for Mark Wahlberg is “Mark Wahlberg talks to animals.” You’ve seen this Saturday Night Live sketch, right? If not, YouTube it and come back. Seriously. Smile on your face for days. “Say hello to your mother for me!” LOVE.)
There were two songs I loved more than any others. These two songs were so affecting I used to reenact them, elaborately and with much pomp and circumstance, with my stuffed animals. I still know every single word and heaven help the people around me on the road if they come on the radio when I have my windows down because I am BELTING those sons-of-bitches.
Here’s the thing, though. They are not appropriate songs for children. They are dark, dark songs. I think they may very well be the root of my affection for all things twisty and tortured.
Inappropriate Song #1: The Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers
First, let’s address the elephant in the room, ok?
Kenny Rogers, circa when I used to listen to this song:
Kenny Rogers now:
OMGWTFBBQ.
Moving on.
Premise: A young man who has never stood up for himself is forced to when his fiancée is shamed. (Or, at least, this is what I thought the premise was, when I was a kid.)
In a nutshell: Tommy’s father, a dangerous felon of some undetermined sort, died in prison when he (Tommy) was 10. Tommy’s uncle raises him. Tommy’s father’s final words to him are:
“Son, my life is over, but yours is just begun.
Promise me, son, not to do the things I’ve done.
Walk away from trouble if you can.
It won’t mean you’re weak if you turn the other cheek.
I hope you’re old enough to understand:
Son, you don’t have to fight to be a man!”
Good, right? I mean, that’s good damn advice. Walk away from trouble! Don’t end up in prison like your old man!
This sound advice CRIPPLES poor Tommy, who takes it to the LETTER. He becomes known as a coward. Worse yet: the coward of the ENTIRE COUNTY. He’s so bound and determined to follow his dead father’s final decree that he is completely and totally inert.
Tommy, eventually, as people do, falls in love with Becky. Becky sees past the coward of the county moniker and sees the real Tommy beneath the gossip and lies:
“In her arms he didn’t have to prove he was a man.”
Um, ok. Well, I guess. I’m not saying every guy I’m with has to go bust some heads or chop some logs for me, but I do like to know they’re male, you know? Just a little. Anyhoo.
Now, there are baddies afoot in the county. The Gatlin boys. You know they’re evil, because they are sort of named after guns.  Although they’ve never come up in the song before, apparently they have it in for Tommy; so much so, they hit him where he is weakest. Becky.
“One day while he was workin’ the Gatlin boys came callin’.
They took turns at Becky… there was three of them!
Tommy opened up the door and saw his Becky cryin’.
The torn dress, the shattered look was more than he could stand.”
When I was a kid, acting this out with stuffed animals standing in for the characters (my most hated animals were, of course, the Gatlin boys,) I acted this out as the Gatlin boys came in, taunted Becky, tore up her wedding dress, and left. I honestly thought they picked on Becky for wanting to marry a coward. This is what I thought happened in this song. (Does it surprise anyone I was fifteen before someone kissed me for the first time? No? Didn’t think so.)
Then I gave it a close re-listen when I was an adult and realized holy shit, they took turns at Becky. Becky, who was probably untouched before that, because Tommy hadn’t “proved he was a man” with her. The Gatlin boys gang-raped Tommy’s fiancée.
This top-40 country song that I have loved my entire life is about gang-rape.
(Also, what is WITH that exclamation point at the end of the second sentence up there, lyrics website I’m taking these from? Why are you making it sound so jaunty? There were three of them! What fun, how joyous, taroo, taray! Also, there WERE three of them, Kenny, not WAS. I know these are hillbilly folk but your bad grammar is cringey.)
What does Tommy do in retaliation? Well, Tommy, as his fiancée sobs in the background, takes his father’s picture down and recalls the words that have made him unable to stand up for himself for his entire life. Mostly this is just an excuse for Kenny to sing the refrain again, though.
Then comes Tommy’s retribution.
“The Gatlin boys just laughed at him, when he walked into the barroom.
One of them got up and met him halfway ‘cross the floor.
When Tommy turned around they said, Hey look! Ol’ yellow’s leavin’.
But you coulda heard a pin drop when Tommy stopped and locked the door.
Twenty years of crawlin’ was bottled up inside him.
He wasn’t holdin’ nothin’ back; he let ’em have it all.
When Tommy left the barroom not a Gatlin boy was standin’.
He said, ‘this one’s for Becky,’ as he watched the last one fall.”
Hmm. Well, ok.  I mean, he’s been a coward for twenty years. What the hell do you expect?  I mean, knowing what happened to Becky, you’d really like the song to take a darker turn, like, “Tommy took down his father’s .22 and skinning knife,  found the Gatlin boys, and as Becky watched, he tortured them slowly over a number of days,” but what you get is sort of triumphant, I guess. He KICKS THEIR ASSES. I bet they were REALLY SORE for A COUPLE OF DAYS. Also QUITE EMBARRASSED. Because a COWARD BEAT THEM UP. And since this county is apparently gossip central, it’s only a matter of time before THEY GET NICKNAMES, TOO. Probably like WIMPY MCGEE AND THE BOYS. Or WHINEASS MCGURK AND THE FELLAS.
Apparently, you don’t call the law wherever this song was set. You go to the bar, where they are celebrating the fact that they raped the love of your life, and you use fisticuffs! That will make poor Becky feel better, lying there, violated, her wedding dress all torn to shit, her fiancé off God-knows where doing God-knows what, that you PUNCHED THEM GOOD AND PROPER. That’s what her honor is worth to you. YOU GOT THIS, TOMMY.
To finish things off, Tommy, as he is watching the last Gatlin boy fall, talks to his dead father one last time:
“I promised you, Dad, not to do the things you’ve done.
I walk away from trouble when I can.
Now please don’t think I’m weak, I didn’t turn the other cheek,
And Papa, I sure hope you understand:
Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man”.
He is apologizing to his father for fighting. OK, well, Tommy, I can think of someone who needs an apology: BECKY. Who a., was just raped because you are the town laughing stock and they wanted to teach you a lesson through her, b. is apparently living in a weird Appalachian hilltown with no real justice system, and c. needs some major goddamn counseling right now, and a supportive boyfriend who doesn’t run off to do some out-of-character heavy bar brawling when she needs him most.
Here’s the thing, though – please, someone, explain this to me, but I STILL LOVE THIS SONG. It makes me cry. The way Kenny sings “when Tommy stopped to lock the door” is gorgeously dramatic. Even now, when I know what it’s about (I asked my mother this weekend if she always knew what it was about, she looked at me like I was touched in the head and said, “Um, YES,” so apparently, I was just really, really sheltered as a child) I still love it.
Tomorrow – part two, or what goes on in a small town when someone’s skirt is just too goddamn short.

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