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Thread: TNL Music Club Week #10: Randy Newman - Good Old Boys

  1. TNL Music Club Week #10: Randy Newman - Good Old Boys

    Rather than go with a little known indie band, I’ve decided instead to go choose an artist that everyone knows, but few in our generation pay any mind to. Randy Newman is widely considered by his peers and critics to be one of the best songwriters out there, bar none, but as time has gone on, his work with Pixar (not to mention a few novelty hits like Short People and I Love LA) has obscured some of the brilliantly dark, sardonic work he has done over the years, to where I feel like he’s been overlooked maybe because of his fame rather than despite it.

    Arguably his masterpiece is his 1974 concept album, Good Old Boys. Newman had spent much of his previous albums impugning the traditional values of the South, and Good Old Boys is a sort of rebuttal in defense of the south. Like most of Newman’s songs, these are written in character, in this case an over-educated, blue-collar alcoholic from Birmingham named Johnny Cutler. Although the narrative has been diluted a bit since early drafts of the album, there’s a thematic coherence to this album, written predominantly in the voice of this one character, and the songs develop him as the album progresses.

    This one isn’t really background music for surfing. It’s extremely lyrically driven, with story and characters, and some subtle satire that can be missed if you’re not listening. There are no recognizable hits, but there are a ton of timeless songs with some really great arrangements. A little commentary on each track, since I feel like somethings could benefit from a little setting up:

    1. Rednecks: One of the best songs Newman has ever written, but also frequently misunderstood. Essentially an attack on Northern racism from the view of a Southern racist, it’s deeply sarcastic refrain sometimes gets taken as sincere.

    2. Birmingham: Something of an establishing shot for the album, it tells a bit about the narrator’s family and home town of Birmingham, AL.

    3. Marie: A seemingly romantic (but not really) love song from Johnny to his wife Marie. This is a weepy outpouring of emotion from a drunk who is unable to really express how he feels when he’s sober.

    4. Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man): This is a really timeless song that resonates now as much as when it was written. Some people think that this song is about Nixon, but it’s not, it’s about a timeless (and ignorant) sentiment that all of the country's problems could be fixed by the President if he just cared enough to notice us.

    5. Guilty: John Belushi used to play this song every night before going on (and covered it frequently at Blues Brothers shows), and it’s easy to understand why. A great little song about substance abuse and self-loathing.

    6. Louisiana 1927: It’s a testament to the timelessness of this song that so many dredged it up to commemorate Hurricane Katrina. Apart from the Calvin Coolidge reference it could pretty much be about it. Really great string arrangements, beautiful song.

    8. Kingfish: A tribute to Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long, who rose to power in 1928, following the flood mentioned in Track 6. His campaign song was “Every Man a King”, also covered here.

    9. Naked Man: Tells the story of a naked bandit who snatches an old lady’s purse in the middle of the night. In the original draft, Johnny Cutler’s brother is “mistaken” for the culprit (he just happened to be naked and another naked man handed him a purse and ran off), and institutionalized, leading Cutler to implore the Doctor to get him “Back on his Feet Again.”

    10. A Wedding in Cherokee County: Another heartfelt song about a flawed romance, this one a bit happier and less weepy, a sort of weird wedding vow.

    11. Back on My Feet Again: This is a sung by a mental patient to his doctor asking to be let free, but it ends up becoming a weird little story about a white girl and her shotgun wedding to a “negro from the Eastern Shore.”

    12. Rollin’: Another song about drinking, a relaxing rocking chair song to close the album out.

    Not in the folder just yet, but there's a link in the thread over on that other sub-forum. Will upload to the dropbox later tonight.
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    Last edited by Frogacuda; 05 Apr 2011 at 04:06 PM.

  2. Nice choice.

    Yeah, I feel like to me I always figure Randy Newman just writes songs about things he sees like the Family Guy joke played him out to be, and seeing as how his only work I'm familiar with is Toy Story related (which is really good, now that I think about it) I'm excited to give this a shot.

  3. Quote Originally Posted by Opaque View Post
    Yeah, I feel like to me I always figure Randy Newman just writes songs about things he sees like the Family Guy joke played him out to be.
    It's funny how many people I've heard who think that, as if it was supposed to be a goof on Randy Newman and not just the Manitees choosing the Randy Newman ball that week. It's a non-sequitur, like all Family Guy jokes.

    Randy Newman's style about as completely opposite from that as it gets, extremely lyrically driven, smart, sarcastic, dark... If you end up liking this, check out Faust, his rock opera retelling of Faust where he casts himself as Satan, James Taylor as God, and Don Henley as a slacker Faust. Just a vicious assassination of faith and religion, really good.
    Last edited by Frogacuda; 04 Apr 2011 at 11:15 PM.

  4. When is this hitting dropbox?

  5. When detour wakes the fuck up. Unless you can invite me, too. I put a megaupload of it up in the meantime.

    I have 15 GB of upload on so I never bothered with the dropbox before this.
    Last edited by Frogacuda; 04 Apr 2011 at 10:14 PM.

  6. Yeah I can invite you, just PM me your email.

    I'd rather get it through dropbox than Megaupload.

  7. Alright, stuff is in the dropbox. I also threw in my very close second choice, Aerial Ballet by Harry Nilsson, which is one of the best albums of the 60s, as well as Faust, just because. Enjoy, discuss.

    EDIT: Oh yeah, I guess I should mention at some point that the lead track on this album drops the N-bomb a LOT, so know that before you blast the shit, I guess.
    Last edited by Frogacuda; 04 Apr 2011 at 11:14 PM.

  8. #8
    Man I should dump all the albums I like into this folder too.
    Pete DeBoer's Tie
    There are no rules, only consequences.

  9. Most of us have limited space in the drop box, don't just dump shit for no reason.

    That being said more Randy Newman is fine, because it's the artist for this weeks artist.

  10. #10
    Tomorrow I'm going to start putting Tom Waits albums up until I run out of space.
    Pete DeBoer's Tie
    There are no rules, only consequences.


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