Wednesday, September 06, 2017

'Go on back to Greenville': Lucinda Williams and the art of a 'fuck you' song


Songs telling people who deserved to be told to get fucked to "get fucked" has a long and proud tradition in popular music, from Dylan's "Positively Fourth Street" (dripping in venom, with its sneered opening line "You gotta lot of nerve to say you are my friend", before really laying into the unnamed backbiter), Carly Simon's "You're So Vain", as devastating a sustained put down as it is an insanely catchy song, to English pop singer Lily Allen's entire 2006 debut album Alright, Still.

One with more than a few songs on arseholes is US bluesy country singer Lucinda Williams, and like with Simon and Allen's savaging of fuckboys who had it coming, she clearly speaks from experience of having known her share.

One of her finest examples is "Greenville", off her 1998 classic Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, which contains more great songs than any album has a natural right to include.

The song lacks the bombast of many other examples of the genre. It feels understated  — but the impression is superficial. It is quiet, stripped back and builds slowly, but in its poetic simplicity, it finds its mark just as surely. Each verse further strips away the layers of the man in question's pretensions, revealing an intolerable arrogance that spreads pain in its wake. 

By the end, without any sneering just a strong sense of how sadly pathetic he is, Williams offers up the observation "Looking for someone to save you. Looking for someone to rave about you. To rave about you oh to rave about you..."

The man, and there is no doubt it is a man any more than it is a real man Williams had the misfortune to become entangled with, is told repeatedly to go back to Greenville. This is the name of towns in several US states, and it could be any of them, but it is one of them. 

Bellow is the album version, with Emmy Lou Harris providing backing vocals, followed by Williams singing the song on the BBC TV music show Later... With Jools back in 1999.



Don't want to see you again or hold your hand
Cause you don't really love me you're not my man
You're not my man oh you're not my man
Go back to Greenville just go on back to Greenville


You scream and shout and you make a scene
When you open your mouth you never say what you mean
Say what you mean oh say what you mean
Go back to Greenville just go on back to Greenville
You drink hard liquor you come on strong

You lose your temper someone looks at you wrong
Looks at you wrong oh looks at you wrong
Go back to Greenville just go on back to Greenville
Out all night playin in a band

Looking for a fight with a guitar in your hand
A guitar in your hand oh a guitar in your hand
Go back to Greenville just go on back to Greenville
Empty bottles and broken glass

Busted down doors and borrowed cash
Borrowed cash oh the borrowed cash
Go back to Greenville just go on back to Greenville
Looking for someone to save you
Looking for someone to rave about you
To rave about you oh to rave about you
Go back to Greenville just go on back to Greenville


Now, I know what you are thinking. After everything in this post so far and with no obvious segue, can I still force in a plug for my solo show at the Sydney Fringe Comedy festival, "Inspired?" on at the Factory in Marrickville on September 27 & 29 and October 1?

The answer is no. Obviously I cannot actually elbow in a reference to my show, which attempts to grapple with how to stay inspired in a world so horrific while also telling amusing jokes and is a fundraiser for Green Left Weekly and at which you can book tickets here

It would ridiculous! Worse, to even try might be seen as an example of the sort of arrogant men that Lucinda and others slay in their songs!

Sorry, but I just won't do it. However, if you are desperate for details, I guess you could click on the ad on the right hand side of this blog. If you want to. 

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