Mar 08

TAMMY WYNETTE – “Stand By Your Man”

FT + Popular106 comments • 4,666 views

#370, 3rd May 1975

I only have a surface-skimming knowledge of country music, but it’s pretty obvious what’s great about it: songs about grown-up situations and emotions, with clear, well-turned lyrics, whose singers often have gorgeous, expressive voices – what’s to dislike? But stereotypes stick to the genre – particularly at an ocean’s distance: sentiment, traditionalism, religiosity, a willingness to be trite or didactic. These are big hurdles for a lot of listeners, though none of them is as true, as often as the people who utterly dismiss country might imagine. None of them are even a deal-breaker for me – something I like about country is that I can disagree with what’s in a song at the same time as I enjoy it.

Country is a near-total absence from British charts now: in the 1970s, though, there was a clear market for it and the big hits did extremely well – especially if, as in this case, they had year to build up demand before an eventual release. I didn’t know, coming to write this entry, that “Stand By Your Man” wasn’t a 1975 hit, and knowing that Wynette and George Jones divorced in the mid-70s I’d heard bitterness in its tears, and its lyrics that essentially present men as helpless, defective children. My Dad, who loves the song, used to chuckle over Wynette’s multiple real-life marriages, understanding that the pleasure in country lies partly in how it briefly, artfully paints a life and situation in a few minutes. Whether the singer lived the song didn’t seem to be the point.

I may enjoy country but ultimately I don’t share its sensibilities: the lachrymose wobbles and almost-cracks in the vocal do feel over-the-top to me, and the record can’t quite win freshness back from crushing over-familiarity. But the sardonic, wounded intensity of Wynette’s performance is a keeper whether it’s your first time hearing it or your thousandth.



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  1. 76
    Dan R on 18 Mar 2008 #

    Although an alternative interpretation is offered by the wonderful No Rock ‘n’ Roll Fun site. Maybe she’s saying that only a gay man in search of wisdom would turn to Dolly Parton.

  2. 77
    crag on 19 Mar 2008 #

    while we wait for Toms next entry (no hurry but i refer u to #36!)just to keep the chat going i was wondering if anyone has seen the top 20 best and worst Number 1s list in the current ish of Word magazine?I will avoid spoilers, however I noticed only one of Tom’s 10s so far makes into their top 20- Isrealites. V Pleased to see Cumberland Gap in there though- an amazing record which i only discovered thanks to Popular..

  3. 78
    Lena on 19 Mar 2008 #

    There’s a Guilty Pleasures tv show?!? What other songs were ‘performed’?

  4. 79
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Mar 2008 #

    Well, there was a one-off programme – it looked like a pilot – and it seems to have been received pretty unanimously as a unmitigated disaster, as most things presented by Fearne Cotton tend to be.

    And as usual, instead of absolving itself of all guilt and presenting itself as a straightforward variety show, the flow was interrupted/destroyed by a string of ITV rep reliable talking heads describing their own “guilty pleasures.”

    Not that there was much flow to begin with. The Feeling did Video Killed The Radio Star – a great and crucial record which stopped being a guilty pleasure around about the time Trevor Horn started producing Dollar. KT Tunstall slaughtered You’re The Voice by John Farnham, a song that wasn’t worth resuscitating in the first place. Craig David – oh, how the mighty have fallen – mumbled his way through If You Let Me Stay by Terence Trent D’Arby (huh? Guilty Pleasure? The NME touched the hem of his garment all through ’87! Part of the reason why I stopped reading it!). Amy MacMumble Donald (or Paolo Nutini at 16 rpm as I call her) did “Sweet Caroline” about two octaves too low. Sophie Ellis-Bextor did “Yes Sir I Can Boogie” reasonable service (but that has long since been rehabilitated! It was used as the intro music to the Pistols reunion gig at Finsbury Park in ’96 for heaven’s sake!).

    Two-thirds of Supergrass (so it was clearly pre-recorded some while back, when Mickey had his accident) went through “Beat It” quite well – but again, when the hell was this ever a guilty pleasure?

    Worst of all I have saved until last – Kelly Osbourne raping, slashing and burying one of the greatest number ones ever; anyone who considers it a guilty pleasure should be marched out blindfold into the nearest nine-lane carriageway and left to find their own way back to the service station. And I’m not going to say what it is until Popular gets there.

    The only thing that can be said in this programme’s favour is that it didn’t quite stoop to soliciting the views of

    Bob Mills

  5. 80
    mike on 19 Mar 2008 #

    Oh, it was just appalling! Sophie Ellis-Bextor recorded “Yes Sir I Can Boogie” for a B-side a few years ago and has performed it on tour, so she did OK (although I’d rather have had the Goldfrapp deconstruction from the Black Cherry days). The Feeling used to play “Video Killed The Radio Star” at European ski resorts when they were a covers band, and I saw them perform the song much better than that 18 months ago; it just looked tired, and thoughtlessly knocked out. Craig David was shockingly bad: clapped out, lost, and looking like he had aged 20 years. KT Tunstall managed “competent but dull”, but the woeful Amy McDonald couldn’t even make it that far. The Magic Numbers were an embarrassing mess. Supergrass as the Diamond Hoo Ha Men were actually quite good, and it was pleasing to see the confusion on the faces of the woo!-ing hen-nighters down the front.

    As for Kelly Osbourne, though… after that unforgiveable hatchet job, she should never work again. (Like we should be so lucky.) Why didn’t anybody SAY anything?

  6. 81
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 19 Mar 2008 #

    tom’s orgafun-learned suggestion abt this programme was that having let the contributors pick the GP, they then rotate them so said contributors have to play someone ELSE’S GP: with “and make it work” the underlying requirement

    TTD actually seems to me to come closest to the still-unvarnished conception of GP*, precisely bcz his critical (and commercial) star fell so precipitately — and was shaky enough in its ascendent that anyone saying “i have always loved him” is going to be placing themselves in a zone of stout self-justification from the off

    *unless of course you count actual real pleasure in the stylings of eg THE MAGIC NUMBERS or THE FEELING! —:0

  7. 82
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Mar 2008 #

    I pitched the exact opposite idea to ITV1; these would have been my choices:

    The Feeling – United by Throbbing Gristle
    KT Tunstall – The Woe by Steve Lacy
    Craig David – Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse by Eugene McDaniels
    Magic Numbers – Violence Grows by the Fatal Microbes
    Supergrass – Thriller! by Pere Ubu
    Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Everything Merges With The Night by Eno (as a tango)
    Amy MacDonald – I Wanna Be An Astronaut by Ricky Wilde
    Kelly Osbourne – Wild Women With Steak Knives by Diamanda Galas

    I’ve yet to receive a reply.

  8. 83
    Mark G on 19 Mar 2008 #

    “I Am An Astronaut” by Ricky Wilde

    Indeliby imprinted, I’m afraid! “I yam an astronaut!”

  9. 84
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Mar 2008 #

    Indeed, and not a million miles from “I’m a neanderthal man” either. I must have been mixing it up with “I Wanna Go To A Disco” which was another of Ricky’s singles.

    Also, best B-side title ever: “Hertfordshire Rock.”

  10. 85
    Mark G on 19 Mar 2008 #

    And “Teen Wave” which wasn’t too bad, if a bit too much like “Let’s jump the broomstick” in places.

    I’m sure Rick(y) Wilde prays to the heavens and gives thanks that “I am an astronaut” was never a hit.

  11. 86
    Billy Smart on 19 Mar 2008 #

    Is it just wishful thinking on my part, or are the backing vocals on “I Wanna Go To A Disco” a juvenile Kim Wilde?

  12. 87
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Mar 2008 #

    Certainly can’t be ruled out!

    “Astronaut,” incidentally, was apparently a number one in Sweden.

  13. 88
    Lena on 19 Mar 2008 #

    I heard “I Am An Astronaut” on Dr. Demento!

  14. 89
    Erithian on 20 Mar 2008 #

    Harking back to Dolly Parton (#76), Simon Hoggart mentioned in his Grauniad column a while back that he’d had the seat next to Dolly on a plane once, and remarked that the famous chest looks so impressive partly because she’s the smallest adult woman he’d ever seen: her jeans would have fitted a 7-year-old. So you’re almost guaranteed an overhead view…

    I was surprised to hear “Stand By Your Man” on the Radio 5 breakfast show a couple of weeks ago. When the prospect of a referendum on the EU treaty was voted out by the commons, they remarked that Tammy had been number 1 when we did have a referendum in 1975. Maybe we all felt more European then as well as being country fans. (lights blue paper and stands well back)

  15. 90
    Billy Smart on 20 Mar 2008 #

    That’s the sort of discussion for which we need Robin Carmody…

  16. 91
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 20 Mar 2008 #

    haha i think i can guess his position! but yes…

  17. 92
    Marcello Carlin on 20 Mar 2008 #

    I will not have carmodization in this jungle!

  18. 93
    Lena on 20 Mar 2008 #

    Is the next song a ‘guilty pleasure’?

  19. 94
    Marcello Carlin on 20 Mar 2008 #

    The song in question hasn’t yet been “rehabilitated” – Judge Dale has played it but profusely apologised for doing so, even though he shouldn’t have done – but I’m looking forward immensely to the 400 or so posts it will engender… ;-)

  20. 95
    Waldo on 20 Mar 2008 #

    Dear God, one or two of you have really incurred the wrath of The Spoiler Bunny with recent comments. And let me tell you, The Spoiler Bunny does terrible things when he’s angry.

    Basically, you can’t keep your word. Keep your word…

  21. 96
    intothefireuk on 21 Mar 2008 #

    Now here’s a thing – one minute I’m chewing over the bones of Aznovoice’s ‘She’ the next ….I’ve fallen off the radar only to reappear unannounced towards the arse end of a Tammy Wynette thread ! I’ve missed almost a year of chart entries along the way. I may have some catching up to do.

    So Wynette, well after 95 comments there really isn’t much to add is there ? Yes I have to admit Country music is a bit of a black hole for me, at least it has been until fairly recently when through the miracle of illegal downloading I have chanced upon a fair few compilations – even managing to delve into the archives to trace it’s history a little. That said Tammy’s song is pretty numbing fayre. The pedestrian pace of the verses with the standard country bolt-on twangy geetars & lap steel doesn’t get the song off to good start although, thankfully it does liven up somewhat in the chorus. Not sure I would have understood the sentiments as a teenager and neither do I really agree with them now – but then I’m just a man.

  22. 97
    Chris Brown on 21 Mar 2008 #

    Possibly ironic digression: Snow Patrol did a cover version of ‘I Am An Astronaut’ for a Save The Children charity album.

  23. 98
    Tom on 2 Apr 2008 #

    Managed to get the picture, mark etc in at last.

  24. 99
    Billy Hicks on 11 Feb 2011 #

    A few years late here, but if Danny Baker’s correct that something wrong happens in music when you’re 26, I’m not looking forward to 2014. It’s going to need to make quite a shift though as I’m still mostly enjoying the stuff of today, even if the 80s and 90s are my first love.

    My guess – 2014 will be the peak of Simon Cowell mania, and the majority of number 1s will be his acts. That would definitely kill my chart-listening off.

  25. 100
    Lazarus on 27 Mar 2011 #

    Re # 70 – it’s not quite her only number one, she’ll feature on another just a few months before her untimely demise, but I’ll say no more as I hear the gnashing of rodent teeth … as for the old Guilty Pleasures, the 70s one-hit wonders are the best aren’t they? If only the acts on that TV show had attempted Sky High, Howzat, Angie Baby, Rock Me Gently or even Afternoon Delight. And a bit of Gilbert would have been welcome.

  26. 101
    hectorthebat on 11 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    CMT (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music (2003) 1
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 743
    Heartaches By the Number: Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles (USA, 2003) 11
    NPR (USA) – The 300 Most Important American Records of the 20th Century (1999)
    National Recording Preservation Board (USA) – The National Recording Registry
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Pitchfork (USA) – Top 200 Songs of the 60s (2006) 145
    RIAA and NEA (USA) – 365 Songs of the Century (2001) 48
    The Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame Albums and Songs (USA)
    Rock de Lux (Spain) – The Top 150 Songs from the 20th Century (1998) 144
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  27. 102
    Inanimate Carbon God on 9 Mar 2015 #

    @99 You were wrong. And I’m eternally grateful.

    Although my advice to recent British chart toppers (especially the current bunny) is almost the exact reverse of this advice (from a Vice “Big Night Out” in the notorious Spanish resort of Magaluf):

    What’s odd about the food is that so much of it is clearly designed to provide maximum warmth and stodge on wet Wednesday evenings in the Midlands, and thus is entirely unsuitable for the Majorcan climate. What kind of a person thinks a Yorkshire pudding is just the ticket on a 30-degree evening in southern Europe? I appreciate there’s gonna be some degree of drinking on a night out in Magaluf, and some stomach lining will be required. But for fuck’s sake, have a paella.

  28. 103
    Mark G on 10 Mar 2015 #

    #99, was going to say, Danny Baker’s idea was complete bobbins, and 1986 I’d say that music was beginning to get going again.

  29. 104
    wichitalineman on 10 Mar 2015 #

    I was 26 in 1991 which was a pretty incredible year for music.

    I love Danny Baker but, lord, can’t agree on his musical taste. I wonder if he wasn’t allowed to play music (apart from instrumentals) on his BBC London Breakfast Show for a reason. That way we got Leroy Anderson’s Forgotten Dreams, a karaoke version of Kashmir, and the theme from Halloween. It was ace!

  30. 105
    Weej on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Re 104, 103, etc, I think the fact that you’re here at all puts you in a minority here – for many people I know Danny Baker is correct, they have a cut-off point in their mid-20s or even earlier – and a glance at the cover of Q or Mojo will tend to confirm that this is pretty widespread. It’s this instinct rather than something as arbitrary as “rockism” that I see poptimism as defined in opposition to – and in case that sounds like an early 2000s thing, the struggle continues on the /lewronggeneration/ subreddit.
    As for Baker himself, don’t know much about what he listens to now, but I like what he did on Desert Island Discs.

  31. 106
    enitharmon on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Danny Baker is just a name to me. I was 26 in 1980 and ISTR that as the beginning of quite a pop renaissance, with Blondie in their pomp and a lot of good stuff growing out of a punk movement that it’s no secret I found pretty dismal. But there you go. My theory of being 26 is that it’s the age at which you are most “grown-up”, after which you realise that being grown-up is just a myth your parents and teachers dinned into you!

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