The topic for this edition of Twisted Mix-Tape Tuesday is songs that tell a story. A story contains a beginning, middle and end. It also contains characters whose conflicts drive the story.
The songs I chose were rock songs. The hallmark of any country song is that it tells a story. Many rock songs consist of the singer telling another person how he feels about them, about how someone else screwed him or her over or what he or she enjoys doing. Story songs are generally in the third person.
Here is my list of story songs.
1. Two Hangmen-Mason Profitt
I used to hear this song when my radio station of choice, during the late 1980s-early 1990′s delved into the archives for Saturday Second Helpings. They’d play some deep classic rock cuts and then air the best bits from the previous week’s morning show. This is a protest song, which I didn’t know until I read this post. If you listen to the lyrics, they apply to current times and events just as much as they applied back when the song was released. According to the “About” section that accompanies this video, this song was more a regional hit in the midwest, but has now become a staple of classic rock.
I do have one question, though. If the guy telling the story is one of the hangmen hanging from a tree, how is he able to sing this song in the first person while his presumably lifeless body, attached to that branch of the hangman’s tree by a noose pulled tightly around his broken neck, is swinging back and forth in the wind?
This question has bothered me for years.
2. I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home-Grand Funk Railroad
This song is another classic rock staple that you don’t hear a lot any more. The story is about a captain, his crew and a ship. The entire crew have been gone for months, and it’s apparent that at some point, the boat has been hijacked or the crew has either staged a mutiny, are about to stage a mutiny or the captain is so sick, he’s imagining the whole thing in his delerium. The captain is begging his crew to give him back his ship. This is a “two-parter” because a stranger shows up, the song goes into the “I’m Getting Closer to My Home” part, which is where the captain is dying.
And again, I wonder how someone who is dying can be singing in the first person?
3. Lucky Man-Emerson, Lake and Palmer
I have very definitive memories of this song from childhood and I think it caught my ear because of the Moog synthesizer at the end. At the time, synthesizers were very new and they seemed very sci-fi and different. This was before technology evolved to the point that a synthesizer could replace an entire band, so the instrument was used to add to the song and the sound, rather than replace the musicians. To my pre-school ears, the Moog made this song sound very futuristic. I had no idea that this song and group were part of prog rock. I thought the noises at the end were cool.
The story in this song is about a man who seemed to have everything; things like white horses and ladies by the score. He also had a bed with a gold covered mattress, white lace and feathers. He also was brave and went to fight for his country and king. He was so brave, that the people would sing of this lucky man’s honor and glory. But all of his wealth, honor, glory, and position couldn’t save him from death.
4. She’s Leaving Home-The Beatles
The story is about a girl running away from home. I love that Paul McCartney is telling the story, but John Lennon’s backing vocals are from the POV of the girl’s parents, who are wondering where they went wrong with their girl. Some people think that “the girl” is secretly going off to get an abortion. They reference the section where she’s keeping her Friday 9 am appointment to meet a man involved in the motor trade as the evidence. I don’t know if there is any truth to that and I’m not going to debate it, but that’s the urban legend around this song.
5. Battle of Evermore-Led Zeppelin
This is from the album Led Zeppelin IV. The song features guest vocalist Sandy Denny.
If you ever thought about reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but were intimidated by how Tolkien could go on and on and on with descriptions, consider this song the Cliff Notes version.
Or you could see the movies if you are in the mood for binge watching.
Ramble On-Led Zeppelin
This song gets honorable mention because I’m writing this post on October 2 and I’m sure it’s appeared on other people’s lists. That’s why I didn’t want to include it in the main list. This song is another reference to J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings.
My husband is a big fan of LoTR and one evening, over ten years ago, as we were driving home from work, this song came on the radio and he complained about the lyrics. He’s as picky and protective about LoTR as I am about the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. I could not watch Little House on the Prairie as a child without uttering the sentence, “That didn’t happen in the books!” Now it’s more, for me, an issue of historical accuracy. I’m a history nerd and I get very particular about movies and TV portraying different eras with historical accuracy.
Anyway, my husband’s quibble was with the lyric: T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair. But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her….yeah.
“There was no girl in the darkest depths of Mordor!” my husband sputtered. “What in the hell?”
I gently laid a hand on his knee as he was driving. “I think the ‘girl’ in this song is the Ring of Power,” I replied. “You know, The Precious.”
He only replied with a hmph.