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Murder songs Vol. 2

It has been a while since I inaugurated this series of songs about murder. In the three songs for the second instalment, we observe a musician killing in self-defence, a crime of passion, and a family making excuses for their very fucked-up son.

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Bill Brandon – Rainbow Road (1969).mp3

This deep soul track by the little known Bill Brandon used to be very rare. Thanks to the Internet, it is now accessible to a wider audience. And what an absolutely breathtaking record it is. The song apparently was written for Arthur Alexander, who has previously featured on this blog, but Alexander recorded it only in 1973. In the song, a down-on-his-luck singer is discovered and takes the fork in the road marked success, the Rainbow Road of the title. The mentor pays of his debt, clothes our friend in finery. “And then one night a man with a knife forced me to take his life,” Bill tells us. As bad luck would have it, he finds himself before an unsympathetic judge who clearly does not buy the self-defence line. So instead of his signature shining in bright lights, he is wearing a number instead of a name. But “I still dream about Rainbow Road”.

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Conway Twitty – Ain’t It Sad To Stand and Watch Love Die (1968).mp3
The killing of passion was a staple in 1960s country. Porter Wagoner based a whole, excellent album on it. One can understand what drive the narrator to murder: not only was his woman cheating on him, but he caught her in the act with his best friend. So it’s not only a sense of jealousy and possessiveness the triggers the killing, but the anger of a double betrayal. There isn’t much confrontation: the narrator shoots them “were they lied”. He records his unfaithful wife’s last words, which evidently do not elicit mercy from our friend, because having watched love die, he is not open to negotiation.  The neighbours are coming over, posing the reasonable question: “Oh my God, what have you done?” His response is unnerving; putting the gun to his head, the narrator asks repeatedly: “Neighbour, ain’t it sad to stand and watch love die?”

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Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy (1978).mp3
The great Zevon imparts a valuable lesson: if your son mistakes Sunday lunch for an occasion to rub pot roast all over his chest, don’t laugh it off. And when he bites the usherette on the leg, don’t put it down to the high japery. Because next, he’ll take little Suzie to the junior prom, then rape and killed her, and take her home. And his idiot family still thinks it’s because he’s just being “excitable”. After ten years he is released from custody at an appropriate facility, and promptly goes to Suzie’s grave, digs her up and take her bones home. And guess what the family is saying?

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  1. June 1st, 2010 at 02:50 | #1

    Nice post, Dude. And, according to Zevon’s autobiography, the tale behind Excitable Boy is true (at least the pot roast portion).

  2. Oldetymer
    June 7th, 2010 at 02:53 | #2

    I was really impressed with “Rainbow Road” by Bill Brandon, never heard of him but would sure like to hear more.

  3. the hound of castles past
    June 3rd, 2015 at 14:56 | #3

    how about a re up of that rainbow road?

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