If there's one musician whose advice is worth heeding, it ought to be Johnny Cash. But when the Man in Black sang "Don't Take Your Guns To Town," a whole lot of musicians must not have been listening. Perhaps they were tuning in one of Cash's other songs that takes a different point of view - "Delia's Gone," for example, or his most famous firearm-related song of all, "Folsom Prison Blues."
Anyhow, sometime between an unusually erotic dream and leaving for work Tuesday morning, Rocks Off heard Whitey Morgan & the 78s' "Where Do You Want It?" on Sirius/XM's Outlaw Country. The song takes its title from the five words honky-tonk hero Billy Joe Shaver is said to have asked Billy Bryant Coker before shooting him in the face outside a bar near Waco in April 2007, inspiring Dale Watson to write a song about it shortly thereafter. After what is surely one of the few trials to contain the word "chickenshit" in sworn testimony - even in Texas - Shaver was acquitted on aggravated assault charges earlier this year.
Michigan-based Morgan & the 78s, whose self-titled debut was released yesterday, play the Continental Club this evening - after The Umbrella Man, the local band fronted by Shaver's bass player Nick Gaitan. Rocks Off couldn't make this shit up if we tried, so since we don't have to, we started thinking about other songs that can't keep it in the holster... so to speak.
We picked six, of course.
Bob Marley/Eric Clapton, "I Shot the Sheriff"
Yes they sure did, Marley in 1973 and Clapton a year later (for his only U.S. No. 1 single). Rocks Off does not understand why, after already admitting to shooting the sheriff, Marley/Clapton is so concerned about the consequences of killing a mere deputy - unless said deputy was much better connected within the notorious Jamaican underworld. Island justice, mon.
Marty Robbins, "Big Iron"
No one could sing a ballad of Ye Olde West quite like Marty Robbins, and this is one of his best. After several verses of scene-setting worthy of John Ford, the notorious outlaw "Texas Red" - with 20 notches on his gunbelt, or "one and 19 more" - thinks he can get the drop on the handsome young Arizona ranger. He thought wrong. Watch this.
The Clash, "Guns on the Roof"
Guns were one of The Clash's favorite subjects, so we had to put them on this list - especially after Tuesday night's awesome Gorillaz show. Rocks Off chose this one because we always thought Give 'Em Enough Rope never got as much credit as it should have.
Notorious B.I.G., "Who Shot Ya"
Biggie, fool. Get on his bad side and you'll be lucky if that's all he does: "One false move, get Swiss-cheesed up/ Clip to Tec, respect I demand it/ Slip and break the 11th Commandment/ Thou shalt not fuck with raw C-Poppa/ Feel a thousand deaths when I drop ya."
Pere Ubu, "Final Solution"
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The only song here where no shots are fired. Rocks Off chose it anyway because a) We like it; and b) David Thomas' insistent growl that he "don't need a gun" implies he's got something much more sinister in mind. We really like that.
Robert Earl Keen/Joe Ely, "The Road Goes On Forever"
Not much gunplay in this love story for the ages, but plenty of violence. Opportunistic waitress Sherry and small-time pot dealer Sonny meet cute when he goes upside the head of a frisky customer with a pool cue, flee to Miami Beach and survive a Mexican standoff with both Cubans and DEA agents. Sherry's aim with a single-shot .410 eventually sends Sonny to the electric chair and her back to "Main Street after midnight" in a new Mercedes Benz. Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiaasen couldn't have scripted it any better.