In this trio of murder sings, we deal with a horse-loving psycho, a mother-loving psycho and a couple of miners for whom three was a crowd.
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Willie Nelson – The Red-Headed Stranger (1975).mp3
Ah, the follies of the blonde woman! As the song begins, we are told what the “yellow-haired lady” doesn’t know: don’t mess with the red-headed stranger and, whatever you do, don’t try and steal his pony (here we must assume that Nelson actually means a young equine). And since she doesn’t know not to mess with the red-headed stranger and since she does covet the pony, she initiates a tragic chain of events.
First she makes friendly with the red-headed stranger (we presume here that the colour describes his hair, not a sunburn sustained by a bald head subjected to the ultraviolet rays piercing the Montana air). He doesn’t respond to her flirtatious ways, even gives her money to go away. Fatefully, the blonde is not going to be deterred by otherwise compelling suggestion. She follows the red-haired stranger outside and touches the pony, presumably in ways that hint at an act of larceny. The red-headed stranger firmly puts forward a conclusion to the problem by putting a bullet in the women’s head.
We should have no moral dilemma here. By all reason, the red-headed stranger did something very wrong. Strangely, Willie Nelson and the local judicary, seem to disagree: “You can’t hang a man for killing a woman who’s trying to steal your horse.”
Eddie Noack – Psycho (1968)
Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Psycho (live, 1981).mp3
Who’d be the mother of a psychopath? We first encounter the hungry Declan (for want of a better moniker, the song doesn’t name his narrator, so let’s go with Costello’s maiden name) afflicted with a headache in the family home. The baby’s crying, which doesn’t exactly lighten Declan’s mood as he recounts to his mother an encounter with his ex-girlfriend the day before. “She was at the dance at Miller’s store. She was with that Jackie White, Mama. I killed them both and they’re buried under Jacob’s sycamore.”
As he speaks, Mama makes the schoolgirl error of handing her psycho son a puppy (puppy lovers, look away now). The puppy doesn’t survive Declan’s attention, but we learn that Dec is quite aware of his mental state and the need for institutionalised therapy. Things don’t get much more cheerful, and you don’t really know whether to be repulsed at Declan, or feel sorry for him.
Psycho was written by Leon Payne (whose I Love You Because was recorded by the young Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, George Jones and John Prine), and first recorded in 1968 by Eddie Noack to no particular attention, but became a hit five years later for Jack Kittel.
The Buoys – Timothy (1971).mp3
So, imagine you’re trapped in a coalmine with your colleagues Joe and Tim. And soon hunger sets in, and thirst. The reader blessed with sherlockian powers of deduction will by now have worked out that by the time the rescue is completed, only two miners emerge blinkingly into the daylight — and the eponymous Timothy is not one of them.
“Hungry as hell, no food to eat, and Joe said that he would sell his soul for just a piece of meat. Water enough to drink for two, and Joe said to me: ‘I’ll take a swig, and then there’s some for you.” Knowing that Timothy didn’t survive, we have a sense of foreboding. “Timothy, Timothy – Joe was looking at you. Timothy, Timothy – God, what did we do?”
Well, you don’t really know what happened next (or so you say). “I must’ve blacked out just ’bout then, ’cause the very next thing that I could see was the light of the day again. My stomach was full as it could be and nobody ever got around to finding Timothy.” You and Joe ate Timothy’s bones and hair as well? Yuk!
The song, banned on US radio on its release, was written by Rupert Holmes, who also gave us the regrettable Escape (Pina Colada Song) and the much more brilliant Him. Despite that (or perhaps because of it), it reached #7 on the US charts.