Sunday, June 25, 2006

Rolling Down Hill

I’ve always been a fan of the Jeremiad. The Golden Ages are long gone. Everything’s in decline. It’s clear. Why not come out and admit it? There’s no one better at bemoaning the state of things than Merle Haggard. And no song encapsulates Merle’s the-world-has-gone-to-hell outlook better than “Are the Good Times Really Over?”

The first time I heard it I was driving my 83 Honda Accord up the mountain toward Asheville, North Carolina on I-26. The car didn’t have a tape deck, and only the AM radio worked. This limited your options. But you’d get some good syndicated oldies stuff – “Hubbard’s Cupboard” from Chicago; they’d play the Association and Herb Alpert and Sinatra and Glen Campbell all together. And every once in a while you’d hear some wonderfully apocalyptic preaching, some good church singing and decent country.

Listen for the ominous, fog-horn low-notes; Merle’s tooth-baring pronunciation of “Chevy” (shivy); the cheap word play; the implication that microwaves, Elvis, the Beatles and Nixon all brought ruin to America.

Seeing the record sleeve on a footrest, my wife said “Did you buy a Warren Beatty record? Because if you did, we’re gonna have to have a talk.”

Merle Haggard – “Are the Good Times Really Over?”

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