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Jul 11

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops 2011: the Number 8s

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops67 comments • 1,796 views

1961: Theme From Dixie – Duane Eddy (video)
1971: (Where Do I Begin) Love Story – Andy Williams (video) (lyrics)
1981: Night Games – Graham Bonnet (video) (lyrics)
1991: The Whole Of The Moon – The Waterboys (video) (lyrics)
2001: It Wasn’t Me – Shaggy ft Rikrok (video) (lyrics)
2011: Guilt – Nero (video) (lyrics)

Spotify playlist (all 6 tracks)

It’s a tenuous segue, but what the heck: just as the last round closed with a martial rhythm (of sorts, at least), so this round opens with one. And there the similarities end, as we switch from the fully contemporary to a song that dates from the middle of the 19th century. Not being au fait with the American minstrel tradition, my only prior exposure to “Dixie” was as a part of Elvis Presley’s funereally paced “American Trilogy”, so the chirpiness of Duane Eddy‘s version was initially startling – but despite its lyrical pining, this was traditionally a cheerfully rendered tune, and so Eddy takes fewer liberties with it than I had thought.

The track’s first half sticks fairly faithfully to Eddy’s “man with the twang” template, reminding me of the influence that he exerted on Hank Marvin’s playing style, and the combined influence of both players on the rock guitar heroes that would follow in their wake. (This stuff might sound corny now, but if you were a suburban bedroom musician with no access to the cooler stuff – your Hookers, your Wrays – then Hank and Duane on the Light Programme might well have been your beacons.) But during the second half, things start to go a bit loopy, as if the whole studio has suddenly slid into devil-may-care drunkenness: hollered yee-haas, a yakety sax, a half-mumbled lyrical fragment, a demented, almost parodic diva. It all leaves me wondering how much of this madness can be laid at the door of Eddy’s long-time collaborator, the late Lee Hazlewood. (Ah, NOW you’re interested!)

As he’s one of the few artists ever to have graced my dad’s in-car 8-track cartridge player during the early 1970s (along with The Carpenters, Simon & Garfunkel and, er, Mario Lanza), I have always had a soft spot for Andy Williams. A couple of years ago, just before he shuffled off to Branson, Missouri in perpetuity (the traditional retirement community for showbiz troupers; Ray Stevens packs ’em in there), I saw the man perform the last ever date of his last ever international tour. Then aged 79, his first vocal cracks were starting to show – but all came good for a staggering rendition of MacArthur Park, which showed surprising boldness for an artist whose habitual role has been to offer reassurance and comfort.

There’s not a whole heap of comfort to be found in “Where Do I Begin”, though – at least not if you knew its back story, as did most listeners in 1971. Originally the instrumental theme tune of Love Story, which had been THE big weepie of the previous year (spoiler: Ali McGraw dies!), lyrics were added posthumously to the track, turning it into a pledge of romantic loyalty that both the singer and the audience already knew was doomed to meet a tragic end. Hey presto, instant poignancy.

Despite its pretty tune, this was never one of my favourite Williams tracks – and I speak as someone who listened to his Greatest Hits 8-track at least twice a week for at least two years on the weekday morning school run, so it had plenty of time to ingratiate itself. I prefer Williams when he unstiffens and starts to swing – and speaking as someone who has watched the McGraw death scene in a room of bawling sisters, mindful of the need to respect their ersatz grief, I never rated Love Story much, either.

Fresh from a two-year stint in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Graham Bonnet briefly reactivated his solo career before joining the Michael Schenker Group in 1982. Three years earlier, he had topped the Australian charts with “Warm Ride“, a Bee Gees song that had been omitted from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. But having swapped watered-down disco for watered-down metal (not there’s anything wrong with either; you can’t argue with “Since You Been Gone“), Bonnet wasn’t about to switch back. Cue the suburbanite slaverings of “Night Games”, in which our “man in the busy street” joins our “lady in the library” in the mysterious “house of sin”, where readies are exchanged for “games OF THE NIGHT”.

(Ah, that none-more-Eighties suffix: see also Kiss/Laura Branigan (creatures OF THE NIGHT), DeBarge (rhythm OF THE NIGHT), Sam Fox (spirit OF THE NIGHT) and many more.)

Trouble is: once you start hearing “house of sin” as “house of Cyn“, the erotic edifice does begin to crumble (do they pay for their pleasures with LUNCHEON VOUCHERS?), only to topple further once you suspect that the lead menu item is, um, SEXY SNOOKER. (“Always play one last frame; it says in the rules!”)

Those of you with memories that stretch back two whole months (for yes, I have been on an extended “Blocked By Bonnet” hiatus, and let us speak of it no more) will recall my banning of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” from the 2011 chart, on the grounds that reissues skew the samples. In which case, you might have some justification in quibbling the inclusion of a reissued 1985 single from The Waterboys in the chart of 1991. To which I say: ah, BUT: six years is less than a full decade, and “The Whole Of The Moon” felt connected to pop in 1991, in a way that “Fast Car” doesn’t in 2011.

(I was THERE, man. I did the PARTY TAPES. All of which HAD to include something by The Waterboys and something by The Clash, in order to placate the miserable ex-punks who poo-poohed house.)

As with more of these old hits than I care to mention, I had never given “The Whole Of The Moon” my full attention before now – and despite my habitual genre-adversity towards Big And Important Celtic Chest Thumpers, I am minded to grant it a reprieve, on the grounds that the Bigness And Importance of the track is a justifiable fit for the theme of the song. For if Mike Scott is going to make a series of comparisons between his own aspirations/achievements and the grander, more ambitious, more over-arching visions of his unnamed damaged-genius-hero figure (some say it’s C.S. Lewis, but Syd Barrett would fit just as well and Scott says it’s a composite anyway), then it’s as well that he does so over a questing quasi-martial march which becomes more vaingloriously florid as the track progresses.

Hey ho, we’re back to fucking. Although credited to Shaggy featuring Rikrok, it’s the guest turn who does all the work here, his host confining himself to a couple of toasted verses and endless re-iterations of the track title.

It’s lazy but it works, casting Rikrok as the cheater who got caught on the job, now desperately seeking dubious scraps of relationship advice from the magisterially absent MISTAH LOVAH LOVAH himself. Thus the track title becomes a prompt, muttered in Rikrok’s ear as he fretfully reviews the case for the prosecution, while the rest of Shaggy’s counsel essentially boils down to “chill out/man up/stand your ground/lie through your teeth”.

Rikrok does man up before the song is through, but not as directed. Resolving to apologise to his wronged woman, he spurns his mentor and provider (never devalue the worth of a “ft.”) with new-found clarity. (“You may think that you’re a player, but you’re completely lost.”) And so, and despite appearances to the contrary, “It Wasn’t Me” turns out to be more than cheery braggadocio about “banging on the bathroom floor” (although to be fair, there’s quite a bit of bragging to be had), revealing itself to be quite the morality tale after all.

In stark and immediate contrast with the jokey breeziness of Shaggy and Rikrok’s take on infidelity, Nero offer – through the cavernous medium of Stadium Dubstep, with lingering echoes of Stadium Trance – a darker, more accusing riposte, this time from a woman’s perspective. (“Sometimes I feel you should be crawling back to me” / “The guilt you hide will come between us after all”)

This might have worked better if a) the eight lines of the song weren’t endlessly repeated, in the time-honoured and perfunctory Dance Anthem tradition and b) the video wasn’t all about pole dancers.

OK, you’ve waited long enough! The voting box is open, and the usual rules apply. My apologies for the delay (I’m blaming my block on Bonnet) and my particular thanks to Erithian, for his friendly and supportive nudges.

Comments

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  1. 31
    JonnyB on 7 Jul 2011 #

    Mike, I am interested (genuinely) at what it was about the Bonnet that caused such a block? It strikes me that there are a billion things to say about it – whereas I’d have expected a less… controversial track to be more difficult to write about…

  2. 32
    Mike Atkinson on 8 Jul 2011 #

    Oh, I don’t think all the blame can be laid at Bonnet’s door. Let us speak of it no further!

  3. 33
    Alex on 8 Jul 2011 #

    I can report that the “This is Dubstep” launch party at XOYO was evidence that people really do dance to it. However, I think the rate of people falling all over each other or just doing something completely different was unusually high…

  4. 34
    Erithian on 8 Jul 2011 #

    6 pts – 1991 – Waterboys. Great song, although I think it’s more squarely situated in 1985 than you acknowledge, Mike, on account of the line “you came like a comet, blazing your trail”: topical on account of Halley’s Comet, which was approaching Earth late that year! I saw the Waterboys supporting U2 at Manchester Apollo in 1984, and wanted to get Mike Scott’s autograph for a friend who was a big fan of theirs. Unfortunately by the time U2 had finished, the support band had toddled off to the hotel, and I had to content myself with Bono chatting away in the car park, leaning on someone’s motor and happily signing people’s programmes. Bet he paid tax in those days too.

    5 pts – 2001 – Shaggy ft Rikrok. An amusing tale well told, and an element of Pluto’s “Your Honour” as well. Not my usual genre but hard to dislike.

    4 pts – 1971 – Andy Williams. Classy ballad, the kind of thing late night BBC2 was made of in those days.

    3 pts – 1981 – Graham Bonnet. Not bad in my book, but I do remember finding it less than convincing. Something about short-haired metallers (see also Rob Halford). Good to see the likes of Cozy Powell in the video though. Several years before the Smiths popularised the name of the local jail, those of us from Manchester knew from that line “He takes his pleasure in Strangeways” that this was a rum old bugger Bonnet was singing about!

    2 pts – 1961 – Duane Eddy. A corollary of what Marcello calls Larkin’s Law: if you can appreciate great works of art by reprehensible people, can you appreciate pieces of music put to reprehensible use? This was no doubt appreciated as a rock version of the kind of song the Black and White Minstrels were singing every Saturday night, and going down well with people who were mainly unaware of its overtones. Enjoyable as a piece of music in its own right though.

    1 pt – 2011 – Nero. A bit of generational divide here, as it does nothing for me, and that “atmospheric” keyboard bit has been done to death. Oddly enough, after that drum fill at the start I keep expecting Mark Knopfler to kick in with the riff from “Money For Nothing”.

    Thanks for the shout-out Mike, but no need – just very happy to see this back.

  5. 35
    intothefireuk on 9 Jul 2011 #

    6 – Waterboys – spirited, committed and uplifting – best of the bunch here
    5 – Andy Williams – Andy gives a dull tune some grace and power.
    4 – Nero – this is ok but could have done more with the vocals or am I missing the point?
    3 – Graham Bonnet – perfunctory metal-lite and a fairly turgid listen
    2 – Shaggy – funny for a few seconds then just pleasant then irritating
    1 – Duane Eddy – pretty pointless albeit lively

  6. 36
    Birdseed on 11 Jul 2011 #

    6 – Waterboys – Never heard this before, but I’m a sucker for repetetively euphoric music with this few chords. It’s as if Bruce Springsteen suddenly decided to record “Highway of Love” by Johnny O or “Say It Right” by Nelly Futardo.

    5 – Graham Bonnet – Surprised at the low scores, I think people are reading it as Fake Metal, while it’s clearly slightly cabaretish chug-along showtuning half-way between Phantom of the Opera and Eruption’s version of Neil Sedaka’s “One Way Ticket”. Plus: nice jacket.

    4 – Nero – I’m currently following the burgeoning development of a genre called “Luvstep” (search for it on facebook) which being based on the same idea (let’s sweeten up dubstep!) has exactly the opposite execution, clean and cheerful rather than filtery and atmospheric. This is probably better, if more facile.

    3 – Shaggy – I was there at the time, which makes this disastrous to listen to.

    2 – Andy Williams – Shirley Bassey does it better.

    1 – Duane Eddy – “Dixie”? Seriously?

  7. 37
    Steve Mannion on 11 Jul 2011 #

    Great to see this return!

    6 – The Waterboys: “I spoke about wings, you just flew”. I got it, it gets me. I’m still not quite sure what the exact sound of the recurring hook actually is (pardon my ignorance) but I think its allure helped lift this song up the charts as much as the sparky lyrics which seem perfectly pitched between admiration and envy.

    5 – Andy Williams: Grand although I do have trouble hearing that melody without it turning into ‘The Lighter’ by DJ SS in my head (but that’s quite alright).

    4 – Duane Eddy: I’m lacking context but this sounded okay in itself.

    3 – Shaggy ft. Rik Rok: I’m struggling to think of such a massive hit with a more unapologetically unpleasant theme, the breezy cheer-inducing tune itself in as much denial as the protagonists. Rik Rok actually sounds too polite a singer to really convince as an irresistible cadbounder, although I guess that’s the point (hence the having to seek a true playa’s advice). Perhaps Shaggy is also compromised vocally by the song’s relentless brightness and relatively high key, not able to go quite as low and lascivious as on ‘Boombastic’ or even ‘Why You Treat Me So Bad’. A charm offensive indeed but not enough of the former for me to ever have been able to enjoy it.

    2 – Nero: I’m not entirely unmoved by the breezeblock euphoria characterising ‘stadium dubstep’ (e.g. Chase & Status ‘Blind Faith’) in a very similar way to the crossover trance hits of 10+ years ago but this one’s too much of a downer as the title implies and as is often the case it sounds too much like a swarm of mosquitoes invading a windy soul-destroyingly grey retail park. But less fun.

    1 – Graham Bonnet: Shite lames more like (but at least he doesn’t go falsetto).

  8. 38
    logged-out Tracer Hand on 13 Jul 2011 #

    As fond as I am of inappropriate instrumental outbursts, that yackety sax ruined virtually every one of Duane Eddy’s singles right through the sixties, a great shame since some of those songs are simply majestic up until the second chorus. Especially hilarious is Eddy’s version of “Caravan”, in which his twangy guitar finds a perahps counterintuitively ideal home, slinking around ominously, until the entire song changes into a MAJOR KEY for the obligatory yackety sax interlude. Just bewildering.

  9. 39
    logged-out Tracer Hand on 13 Jul 2011 #

    Re: “Theme From Dixie” specifically: as somebody who spent the first 18 years of his life in Tennessee, it is simply impossible to hear this without thinking about what this tune meant to people in 1961. Bad things. It meant bad things. For that reason alone I can’t enjoy it at all, I’m afraid, yackety sax or no.

  10. 40
    Ed on 20 Jul 2011 #

    And the more I think about ‘Dixie’, and read about the American Civil War (I got interested in all the 150th anniversary stuff), the more troubled I am.

    Instinctively I would want to put ethics behind aesthetics when judging art of any kind. I have no trouble loving the Rolling Stones and Jay-Z, in spite of their often lamentable sexual politics. (Although ‘Under My Thumb’ and ’99 Problems’ are far from being my favourite tunes from either of them.)

    But if there was a rocking arrangement of the ‘Horst Wessel Song’, then I would not want anything to do with it. And my sense is that ‘Dixie’ comes closer to the latter case than to the former.

  11. 41
    thefatgit on 20 Jul 2011 #

    Wikipedia has a Dixie canon (of sorts). Would ALL of these become as contentious as Duane Eddy’s instrumental?

    “To Arms… in Dixie!”
    “Acid Tongue” – Jenny Lewis
    “All I Can Do Is Write About It” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
    “An American Trilogy” – Mickey Newbury (also recorded by Elvis Presley and Manowar)
    “Are You From Dixie?” – Jerry Reed
    “Black Water” – Doobie Brothers
    “Blood Splattered Banner” – Carcass
    “Born Again in Dixieland” – Jason McCoy
    “Christmas in Dixie” – Alabama
    “Crash Into Me”- Dave Matthews Band
    “Trailer Park Scum” – Stereoside
    “Dear Old Dixie” – Flatt & Scruggs
    “Dick in Dixie” – Hank Williams III
    “Dixie” – Harmonium
    “Dixie” – The Skillet Lickers
    “Dixie Blues” – Don Walser
    “Dixie Chicken” – Little Feat (title track of their album)
    “Dixie Flyer” – Randy Newman
    “Dixie Fight Song” – Artimus Pyledriver
    “Dixie Highway” – Journey
    “Dixie Lullaby” – Pat Green
    “Dixie Now You’re Done” – Waylon Jennings
    “Dixie on My Mind” – Hank Williams Jr.
    “Dixie Road” – Lee Greenwood
    “Dixie Whiskey” – Eyehategod
    “Dixieland” – Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band
    “Dixieland Delight” – Alabama
    “Down Home Town” – Electric Light Orchestra
    “Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier” – Manic Street Preachers
    “The Fighting 69th” – Dropkick Murphys
    “Freight Train Blues”
    “Friday Night in Dixie” – Rhett Akins
    “God Love Her” – Toby Keith
    “Goodbye Dixie” – Corey Smith
    “Heart of the Night” – Poco
    “Hey Porter” – Johnny Cash
    “I Sang Dixie” – Dwight Yoakam
    “I Wanna Go Back to Dixie” – Tom Lehrer
    “If Heaven Ain’t a Lot Like Dixie” – Hank Williams Jr.
    “If I Didn’t Have You” – Amanda Marshall
    “If It Ain’t Dixie” – Alabama
    “Is it True What They Say About Dixie?” – Dean Martin
    “Lay Me Down In Dixie” – Johnny Cash & Cindy Cash
    “Missouri Waltz”
    “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” – The Band, Joan Baez
    “Old Red Hills Of Home” – Jason Robert Brown, from the musical “Parade”
    “Rebels” – Tom Petty
    “Rockabye My Baby With a Dixie Melody” – Al Jolson, Judy Garland
    “Sailing to Philadelphia” – Mark Knopfler
    “So Long Dixie” – Blood, Sweat & Tears
    “Southern Girls” – Saliva
    “Stay Away From Dixie” – Johnny Rebel
    “Suck My Dixie” – Bourbon Crow
    “Sultans of Swing” – Dire Straits
    “Summer In Dixie” – Confederate Railroad
    “Swanee” – George Gershwin and Irving Caesar
    “That’s How They Do It in Dixie” – Hank Williams Jr.
    “Theme From Dixie” – Duane Eddy
    “There’s No Place Like Home (For the Holidays)”
    “Til I Fell In Love With You” – Bob Dylan
    “Trombone Dixie” – The Beach Boys
    “Whistlin’ Dixie” – Randy Houser
    “Your Late Unpleasantness” – of Arrowe Hill
    “You Can Thank Dixie for That” – Jake Owen
    “You Aint’ Just Whistlin’ Dixie” – Bellamy Brothers
    “The Hobo” – Jerry Reed
    “Man of Peace” – Bob Dylan
    “John Deere Green” – Joe Diffie

  12. 42
    lonepilgrim on 20 Jul 2011 #

    I once watched, with gaping jaw, a local choral group give a spirited rendition of ‘Dixie’ at a benefit concert for the Anne Frank foundation.

  13. 43
    Ed on 20 Jul 2011 #

    @41 Wow, that’s an impressive list. A case of “too many ‘Dixies’ on the dancefloor,” you might say.

    I think there is a big difference, though, between the word “Dixie” and the song ‘Dixie’. The song originally had lyrics about free African-Americans in the North bemoaning how much better their lives had been as slaves in the south, and it became an anthem for the new nation that the southern states tried to create, which had racism as one of its founding principles.

    As I have said, I know very little about this subject, and I am really raising questions rather than providing answers. But I think the questions are worth asking anyway.

  14. 44
    wichita lineman on 21 Jul 2011 #

    Re 38: Duane Eddy probably doesn’t even play on Caravan. It doesn’t sound like him to me. It’s a Lee Hazlewood production, but that’s probably Al Casey on guitar. This explains why it came out on Parlophone over here when all his other singles of the period were on London.

    Really peculiar – there have been bands playing live masquerading as someone else, but releasing a record under someone else’s name and having a (minor) hit? Any other examples of this in pop history?

  15. 45
    thefatgit on 21 Jul 2011 #

    Blink 182/Boxcar Racer/Angels & Airwaves springs to mind, but they were seperate projects, set up by Tom & Travis I believe.

  16. 46
    wichita lineman on 21 Jul 2011 #

    The Duane Eddy story is the equivalent of Blink 182 having a hit under the name Green Day.

  17. 47
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 21 Jul 2011 #

    The Beatles put out several records in the 70s under the name Klaatu.

  18. 48
    AndyPandy on 21 Jul 2011 #

    41: And of course since at least the early 70’s I doubt a period of more than a few weeks has ever passed on any council estate anywhere in England without the sound of a car-horn blaring out Dixie rending the air.

    ps I see Wikipedia is being its typically tenuous self there with its inclusion of Dire Straits’ ‘Sultans of Swing’ as part of a Dixie canon: seeing as the song gets no closer to Dixie (the place) than a jazz band in South London playing trad (Dixieland) jazz…

  19. 49
    thefatgit on 21 Jul 2011 #

    Yes, I thought that entry was a bit “belt and braces”.

  20. 50
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 21 Jul 2011 #

    What type of music do the Sultans actually play? The line that mentions Dixie is “a band is blowing Dixie”, which is quite easy to misunderstand (the song also says they “play Creole”, but not rock and roll; and the word SWING is in their name)The term “Dixieland” derives from “The Original Dixieland Jass/Jazz Band” — who, despite their name, and all being white, all came from New Orleans, I think. New Orleans was indeed within the Confederacy, but it really doesn’t belong to the image of the South that ‘Dixie’ paints.

    I’d suggest quite a lot of songs in that list take issue with the ideology of the original song: including some of the cover versions.

  21. 51
    AndyPandy on 21 Jul 2011 #

    I always presumed it meant they were playing jazz from Dixieland ie New Orleans – until now I’ve never connected the word Dixie in this song with the song ‘Dixie’ – but yes I suppose they could be playing a trad jazz Kenny Ball type interpretation of the song ‘Dixie’.

    Growing up with Radio 2 in the background for a large part of my childhood ‘Dixie/Dixieland’ to me was just a word that I heard mentioned quite a bit on the many Benny Green-type jazz programmes that the weekend schedules always seemed full of when I was a child in the 70s. It was all just background noise to me back then but obviously the names that were always being mentioned Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dixieland (I should imagine to describe the trad jazz sound) etc sort of registered in some way.

  22. 52
    Ed on 21 Jul 2011 #

    @50 New Orleans may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of ‘Dixie’, but it was apparently the largest and richest city in the Confederacy. (Thanks Wikipedia!) And – again according to Wikipedia – it may have been the place where the word “Dixie” was born. One possible derivation is that:

    “The word “‘Dixie'” refers to privately issued currency from banks in Louisiana.[4] These banks issued ten-dollar notes,[5] labeled “Dix”, French for “ten”, on the reverse side. The notes were known as “Dixies” by English-speaking southerners, and the area around New Orleans and the French-speaking parts of Louisiana came to be known as “Dixieland”. Eventually, usage of the term broadened to refer to most of the Southern States.”

    And what do the Sultans play? Maybe the lyric is suggesting that, as a band of jobbing musicians without any pretensions to artistry, they can turn their hands to a range of jazz styles. They have a rhythm guitar player and at least one trumpet, which also indicates a degree of flexibility.

    (I have just read Elijah Wald’s excellent, if infuriatingly titled, ‘How the Beatles Destroyed Rock’n’Roll’, which stresses how for most of the 20th Century, most working bands had to be versatile enough to perform whatever style the listeners – and dancers – wanted to hear.)

  23. 53
    jeff w registered on 22 Jul 2011 #

    Nice to see this back, although I also see it’s already been 2 weeks…

    I’m slightly surprised that Mike didn’t mention the nine minute 1979 disco rework of Andy W’s take on “Love Story”, which is just extraordinary. Drama, drama, all the way. I hadn’t heard his original take before, but both vocal performance and the arrangement are sheer class.

    Bafflingly, I have no memory of “Night Games” at all. Astonished this made the top 10 but I don’t hate it. Didn’t listen to the Duane Eddy but from the descriptions above I’m not sure I want to.

    6pts – Andy Williams
    5pts – Nero
    4pts – The Waterboys
    3pts – Bonnet
    2pts – Shaggy
    1pt – Duane Eddy

  24. 54
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 22 Jul 2011 #

    ed@52: that’s interesting — the politics of money in the early US is fascinating and more than a bit mental (for a long time ANYONE was allowed to issue scrip in some states, which meant bank-notes really could be printed IOUs based on the reserves of a bar across state that had closed 2 years ago)*. And the migration of meaning is interesting too: Mississippi was indeed one of the seven seceding states, and New Orleans was a big and important port for the South’s cause — or would have been if it hadn’t fallen to the Northern blockade of ships and troops as early as 1862. Because it didn’t put up much resistance, it escape the scorched-earth attentions cities like Atlanta would eventually see.

    It wasn’t ever considered as the capital of the Confederacy, as far as I know — and I would argue was in its cultural demeanour very much atypical of of the southern mythos: it was/is a wicked crime-ridden piratical city of sin and cash possibility, a bit like old Shanghai, and hence rather more pragmatic and biddable than was wanted in an ideological war of the magnitude and intensity of the US Civil War. Its attitude to the colourline was probably as unrigorous as anywhere in the South: hence birthplace of black urban music form, as a cross-race taste…

    *Read J.K.Galbraith’s hugely entertaining MONEY: WHENCE IT CAME AND WHERE IT WENT.

  25. 55
    thefatgit on 22 Jul 2011 #

    The Confederate Capital was Richmond, Virginia.

  26. 56
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 22 Jul 2011 #

    Yes indeed, but I think there was some debate initially — one of the problems the southern cause had was that, since “the right to secede from a union” was what they were insisting they were all fighting for, the states in the confederacy were quite bad at agreeing on things! Georgia in particular notoriously ran its own war its own way.

  27. 57
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 22 Jul 2011 #

    (I just reread @54 and realise I meant to write “was never considered FOR the capital and etc”)

  28. 58
    Chelovek na lune on 22 Jul 2011 #

    Just a gratuitious excuse to mention the finest New Orleans-set novel, lest anyone here not know it already, “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole. None finer. No greater, fatter, gratuitously reactionary character has ever existed than its antihero, Ignatius J. Reilly. I must admit I had quite overlooked the context of the word “confederacy” until reading this thread. Doh!

  29. 59
    Lionel d'Lion on 22 Jul 2011 #

    6 pts: The Waterboys
    5 pts: Graham Bonnet
    4 pts: Duane Eddy
    3 pts: Nero
    2 pts: Andy Williams
    1 pt: Shaggy

  30. 60
    Ed on 23 Jul 2011 #

    Another fun ‘Dixie’ fact: it was, apparently, one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite songs.

  31. 61
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 23 Jul 2011 #

    I think one should always be a little sceptical of the claims of extremely astute politicians in respect of politically helpful topical tastes: Lincoln was walking a very complex and delicate middle line in respect of the secessionist party in the 1860 presidential campaign, after all, and was prepared to be seen to cede all kinds of minor things if they firmed up the Union. (The Radical Republicans and abolitionists generally were in a constant rage at his apparent willingness to seek a bipartisan solution far short of their demands; but they were not a majority even in their own party.) In the end, of course, the war came and he prosecuted it fiercely, and — when circumstance allowed, or forced his hand — freed the slaves and ended the Peculiar Institution.

    I noticed the Wikipedia article also suggests that the original song may have been intended ironically, despite its subsequent adoption as representative of simple black American nostalgia for their ante-bellum lives: I don’t know the truth of this, and probably no one ever will now, given the open question of its authorship, but certainly minstrel culture had always such contained layered ironies and ambiguities, as a kind of racial Camp; songs written simultaneously to entertain and comfort the white owner class, but sending a very different message out to black listeners, who knew to interpret differently, and to enjoy the (small) fact of this superor knowledge…

  32. 62
    Ed on 24 Jul 2011 #

    @61 The possibility of hidden meanings is an interesting thought, but the intent of the original Daniel Emmett lyrics seems pretty clear:

    I wish I was in the land of cotton,
    Old times they are not forgotten;
    Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.
    In Dixie Land where I was born,
    Early on one frosty mornin,
    Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.

    Old Missus marry “Will-de-weaber,”
    Willium was a gay deceaber;
    Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.
    But when he put his arm around’er,
    He smiled as fierce as a forty-pound’er,
    Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.

    Dar’s buck-wheat cakes an ‘Ingen’ batter,
    Makes you fat or a little fatter;
    Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.
    Den hoe it down an scratch your grabble,
    To Dixie land I’m bound to trabble.
    Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.

    One of the Dixie songs that is a clear response to the original is ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’, and Greil Marcus *has* written an essay about that one: it is at the heart of a chapter in ‘Mystery Train’, his best book. His thrust there is that in empathising so deeply with men who were on the wrong side – militarily, historically, even ethically – The Band are showing extraordinary generosity of spirit. Personally, I waver between being convinced by the nobility of Robbie Robertson’s humanity, and feeling an uneasy sense that sentimentality is being used to sugar-coat a slapdash moral understanding. It is hard to imagine a black critic ever cutting the song so much slack.

  33. 63
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 24 Jul 2011 #

    Yes, the song is “written” straight, whatever the intention; the irony would be at the level of performance and reception: because these are lines certain parts of the audience couldn’t hear some performers delivering without hearing a big giant “NOT” at the end of each sentence, because they’re too horribly ludicrous. The fact of double consciousness was intimately known to all in black American culture long before Du Bois named it: and with it of course came a heightened life-or-death sensitivity to the radical code-shifting such a consciousness would necessitate.

    So in a sense this means it doesn’t matter how Emmett intended it, even if we could now pin this down: the song became a popular vector of two uncompatible meanings because it was so simple in tone (also, to be fair, and in contrast to its frankly RUBBISH lyrics, because it had a pretty tune, though here too claims are made that the tune is not Emmett’s but was, er, “borrowed” from slave music). As, in fact, did minstrelsy: black performers didn’t black up because they were sell-outs, they did so because, as a popular performance staple, it was also a style that was tailor-made for the virtuoso deployment of layers of doubie-voicing in improvised live contexts (and remember that performance before mixed audiences was extremely unusual in the 19th century; the way the material was performed before black audiences was thus able to parody or otherwise complicate and comment on the “straight” way it was performed before white audiences). And for the sense of subversion to have social potency and nutrition, a lot of people — ideally everyone white! — would have to imagined to be missing the joke…

    But I’m not raising this point to be didactic about it: I think by its nature if the ironised coding was known to exist* for this song, in the socio-political context of those times it nevertheless had to be highly deniable and invisible: nothing was more likely to bring violence down, in slavery days or in jim crow, than hints of intelligent black mockery of higher white quality, let alone a sustained culture of same. And deniable and invisible then means unrecoverable now: black culture under slavery and under jim crow weren’t 100% oral, of course, but record-keeping and private archives were intentionally kept extremely difficult, and this has a price. We probably won’t ever know.

    *Existed to a culturally significant extent, I mean: I’ve absolutely no doubt ironic use of and response to the unadorned meaning arose piecemeal, and often, because dark-humoured irony never sleeps, as a way to cope with tribulation if nothing else.

    [apologies if this kept changing as you were reading it: i rewrote it about 20 times!]

  34. 64

    Relatedly — sorta kinda — I very vaguely remember someone claiming Lincoln as an avatar of the West African/voodoo trickster deity, so kin, in folklore terms, to Anansi or Brer Rabbit. Maybe it was Ishmael Reed? But we are moving WAY off topic.

  35. 65
    Clair on 24 Jul 2011 #

    Neil and I give the following scores:

    1 pt : Duane Eddy
    2 pts : Shaggy
    3 pts : Nero
    4 pts : Andy Williams
    5 pts : Graham Bonnet
    6 pts : The Waterboys

  36. 66
    hardtogethits on 25 Jul 2011 #

    The opposite of number 9 – a lower standard than we could have expected.

    6 Waterboys
    5 Graham Bonnet
    4 Shaggy
    3 Andy Williams
    2 Duane Eddy
    1 Nero

  37. 67
    Ed on 10 Sep 2011 #

    Thanks to the magic of Twitter, Mike Scott is now available (as @MickPuck) to talk about what he was on about, like Marshall Mcluhan in ‘Annie Hall’.

    Turns out the Prince line on the vinyl was him having a laugh; as Mike A says, the song is not about anyone in particular. His heroes at the time, though, were CS Lewis, Bob Dylan, George MacDonald, Dion Fortune and Mark Helprin. And there probably is an echo of Syd Barrett In there, too.

    BTW, whatever happened to the number 4s?

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