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Jun 08

KENNY ROGERS – “Lucille”

FT + Popular69 comments • 3,263 views

#406, 18th June 1977

For a long time all I knew of “Lucille” was the mournful swing of its chorus, and it struck me as quintessential country – catchy, corny, sentimental. Listened to in full, though, it’s a stranger creature, an uncomfortably unresolved study in being a minor character, the intruder in someone else’s drama. Rogers is a barfly with his sights on a pick-up who ends up hearing both Lucille’s side of her story and a snatch of her ex’s, and is left confused and (literally and metaphorically!) impotent.

Who’s the listener meant to sympathise with? Is Lucille untrustworthy? Is her husband’s collapse emotional blackmail? I get the feeling Rogers is probably not on Lucille’s side, but the songwriting is skilled enough to leave it open, and the impression that lingers is of Rogers’ own character, his detachment shaken by fear and doubt.

Unfortunately Rogers’ smooth-as-polished-wood delivery can bring out whatever pathos lives in the song, but none of its doubt or darkness, so I have to concentrate pretty hard not to let “Lucille” just wash over me. It’s a more interesting song than it seems, but not a better one.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    wichita lineman on 10 Jun 2008 #

    The Saints being possibly the only group in the 70s, other than the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, who went down the chart after appearing on TOTP. I remember Mark E Smith saying he was impressed by their rendition of This Perfect Day because “the singer was leaning at a weird angle”. Too angular – probably what sunk them.

  2. 32
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Also “Boys Keep Swinging” by Bowie.

  3. 33
    Billy Smart on 10 Jun 2008 #

    TOTP Watch: The Saints performed ‘This Perfect Day’ on the Top of the Pops of the 14th of July 1977. Presenter was David Jensen. Also in the studio that week were; The Real Thing, Rita Coolidge, Dave Edmunds, Jigsaw and Cilla Black, plus Legs & Co’s interpretation of ‘Easy’ (…cue salivating Waldo?)

    This edition survives, as will all from the 15th September 1977.

  4. 34
    Drucius on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Yeah, so you can imagine it became a frustrating and fruitless task.

  5. 35
    Erithian on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Personally I loved this story-song, the characters nicely sketched as with “Ruby” and the later hit that the bunny forbids mention of. In between there was “The Gambler”, an overlooked gem which was picked up on by Dave Sexton, ex-Chelsea manager now leading Manchester United to the 1979 Cup Final, and later by the England team at the 2007 Rugby World Cup – the common factor being that they lost in the final.

    I’ve always wondered about “Ruby” – the song is generous enough to have the wounded soldier seeing things from her point of view (“it’s hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralysed”) – and you wonder how many couples in that real situation came to a compromise where the woman could get her oats with the able-bodied while still looking after her man. It’s a solution that’s just about hinted at in the song, but a real moral maze.

    For a companion piece about a man torn between easy sex and his conscience, or at least his memories, try Bruce Springsteen’s astonishing “Reno”, which earned for “Devils and Dust” the Boss’s first “Parental Guidance” sticker at the age of 55. Even as the Nevada hooker prepares him for the sex act in graphic detail, Springsteen’s protagonist, an immigrant we’re led to assume, finds his mind wandering to a sunlit Mexican river valley and the true love he’s lost. Gripping and beautiful.

  6. 36
    LondonLee on 10 Jun 2008 #

    I remember that Bowie performance on TOTP was most disconcerting.

  7. 37
    Mark G on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Frustrating, yes. Fruitless, clearly not!

  8. 38
    Drucius on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Hah! Good point. Well, it was a poor harvest, put it that way.

  9. 39
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #

    No, Bowie was on RCA not Harvest.

  10. 40
    mike on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Ah, but The Saints were on Harvest!

  11. 41
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #

    As indeed were Wire!

  12. 42
    Drucius on 10 Jun 2008 #

    And Deep Purple!

    Oh.

  13. 43
    Mark G on 10 Jun 2008 #

    So, it was a good harvest. as were wire.

    Actually, that “perfect day” 12″ was the first to feature a ‘bonus track’, which had a “owing to a pressing error, this 12″ single features an additional track” (yeah, righto) sticker.

  14. 44
    Dan R on 10 Jun 2008 #

    # 31: another act who killed off their chart success by appearing on TOTP would be Hylda Baker and Arthur Mullard’s ‘You’re the One That I Want’…

    I’m fairly sure in the 80s, REM managed the same feat, though quite why I don’t remember.

  15. 45
    Brian on 10 Jun 2008 #

    http://www.menwholooklikekennyrogers.com/

    This’ll kill ya .

  16. 46
    Billy Smart on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Re 44; REM performed Orange Crush on the Top of the Pops transmitted on June 15th 1989. Also in the studio that week were; Fuzzbox, Donna Allen, Double Trouble & the Rebel MC and Sinitta. Presenters were Mark Goodier and Simon Parkin.

    The single fell from a high of 28 to 33. Parkin’s comment “That was REM there with ‘Orange Crush’ – refreshing on a hot day!” may hold some of the responsibility for this decline.

  17. 47
    wichita lineman on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Re 45. I’m glad God made it onto the list! ‘Heavenly Kenny’ indeed… I imagine God, if he existed, would also speak with that deep, rasping timbre to his voice. But he may not necessarily approve of day-time friends becoming night-time lovers. Err, time for the football…

  18. 48
    Mark M on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Re: DocMod at No 9 – As a teenager I imagined “Just Dropped In . . . ” was what it would sound like if parents dropped acid and pretended to be hip.

    See, I find this a really intriguing notion, and far more enticing than most of the people who were young then and really did drop acid (with endlessly tedious results). See particularly Porter Wagoner’s excellent and surprising psych-country effort The Rubber Room.

  19. 49
    crag on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Re#48- theres also the sound of 20-somethings who never ever had a sniff of LSD but tried unsucessfully to convince everyone that they were superhip acid guzzlers- tracks like Maybe the Madman by The Troggs or Judy in Disguise by John Fred and the Playboys spring to mind..
    Even stranger is the case of young bands who also sounded deeply unconvincing and ‘straight’in their attempts at “trippiness” but actually WERE genuinely off their tits the whole time- the best example IMO being the Moody Blues..

  20. 50
    rosie on 11 Jun 2008 #

    crag @ 49: Two points.

    1. Were the Moody Blues a young band? I thought they were born middle-aged. They always seemed so to me anyway.

    2. Of course, those who are “off their tits” as you put it (I sense a little bit of sexism there – how about “off their knackers”?) may well feel that they are in communion with the universe, like Jesus’ son, etc, but to the casual observer they look, sound and behave like prats. (This from one who has been there, on Tesco’s finest, no less!)

  21. 51
    DJ Punctum on 11 Jun 2008 #

    Top Tory proggers the Moody Blues were young when Denny Laine was the singer.

  22. 52
    Mark G on 11 Jun 2008 #

    The single fell from a high of 28 to 33. Parkin’s comment “That was REM there with ‘Orange Crush’ – refreshing on a hot day!” may hold some of the responsibility for this decline.

    I have this footage on a compilation VHS, the like of which I used to compile back in the day. I think that REM single had run its course, there was certainly nothing wrong with the performance. Mind you, Simon Parkin’s career certainly fell and that comment may hold some of the responsibility for this decline.

  23. 53
    DJ Punctum on 11 Jun 2008 #

    IIRC the single went down the following week but Green shot up the album chart – REM’s UK market has always been album-orientated.

    Simon Parkin, good God…

  24. 54
    Caledonianne on 14 Jun 2008 #

    Parents’ music??? About five years ago. I went on a work trip to America with a colleague who was on the cusp of 30. We were driving around The Deep South – New Orleans, Memphis Nashville (the previous year we’d had a trip around America’s Desert States).

    Said colleague was a cool, public-school-educated Cambridge graduate, and a pretty funky young woman, mainly interested in R&B. Kenny Roger came on the radio one day, and she expressed some approbation. When we hit New Orleans, I went off to buy the new Janis Ian live album “Working without a net”, but also bought her a cheapo KR greatest hits compilation. Slide it in the CD player, and blow me if she wasn’t word perfect.

    Turns out she thought Kenny is a God. When we got to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville there was an exhibition of photos by KR – turned out he’s a dab hand on the old SLR.

    I’m not mad about the melody, but I think this is a pretty evocative piece of storytelling.

  25. 55
    Waldo on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Rosie – Happy Bloomsday! See you for lunch in Davy Byrne’s.

  26. 56
    rosie on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Indeed Waldo, haven’t had a nice bit of gorgonzola in ages.

    Will you be going on to the Ormond for a Clodagh Rogers moment in stereo?

  27. 57
    Waldo on 16 Jun 2008 #

    You certainly can’t get cheesier than that, my dear! Didn’t realize Clodagh was a raspberry, though. But first breakfast. And I’m not going to burn it again. Then it’s off to say farewell to poor Dignam…

    It’s going to be a long day. I’ve told the wife not to wait up and I don’t expect she will. She never says a bloody word, that woman!

  28. 58
    rosie on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Yes, well, no loitering on the beach ogling the young ladies while you wank, you dirty beast!

  29. 59
    DJ Punctum on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Oh bother, there goes the charabanc…

  30. 60
    Tom on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Speaking of charabancs, I am back from my holidays now so the starved commenteers won’t have to keep up this level of wit for much longer, hopefully.

  31. 61
    DJ Punctum on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Tom, did you have to show the driver which way to go?

    *ducks*

  32. 62
    Mark G on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Ducks? They’re seagulls! *OW*

  33. 63
    rosie on 16 Jun 2008 #

    But Tom, it makes such a change from people demanding their right to be taken seriously!

  34. 64
    Lena on 16 Jun 2008 #

    I take charabancs seriously, or rather I would if I knew what they were…

    When I finally heard this back in L.A. it had been around long enough (a year) for a DJ to have altered it so everytime the title was sung, instead of Rogers it was Little Richard yelling “LUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLE” in his very best fashion. It improved the song immensely!

  35. 65
    DJ Punctum on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Charabancs – old Victorian (though originally French, hence the name) horse-drawn carriages (and eventually motor-driven) popular a century or so ago, especially for works outings to the seaside and similar. Cited in the Stranglers’ hit of this period “Peaches” (no relation to the Presidents of the United States of America one) – Hugh Cornwell’s anguished exclamation “Oh SHIT! There goes the charabanc!”

  36. 66
    LondonLee on 17 Jun 2008 #

    Or “OH NO! There goes the charabanc!” in the radio version.

    Dirty sell-outs those Stranglers.

  37. 67
    Waldo on 17 Jun 2008 #

    Rosie – Great day yesterday. I’m going to have to do it in Dublin one of these times.

    DJP – You don’t know everything, but there’s someting you do know, you know, you know… *approaching hopping getting louder and LOUDER*

  38. 68
    richard thompson on 19 Feb 2010 #

    Around this time the wrong version of Peaches was played on Junior Choice I recall. Anyone remember a song called Lou Steel by Brian Blackburn in the summer of 77?

  39. 69
    Garry on 9 Apr 2014 #

    And to think if I was born a few days earlier it would have been the Sex Pistols. Still, in Australia Don’t Cry For Me Argentina was in its last of seven weeks at number one. Not funkiest time to be born, obviously…

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