Happy Fourth of July, dear readers! What better way to celebrate this country’s independence than to review yet another tale of unabashed codependency? And, of course, in conjunction with this fine holiday, you know which band I’m obligated to cover.
America – Sister Golden Hair (download)
Yes. Yesssss. Let the mellow flow through you!
Now, mind you, I love “Sister Golden Hair.” Like all the other classic America songs, it’s so darn sweet, melodic and catchy. (You may or may not recall me going ga-ga over their cover of “Winter Wonderland,” back during The Sixth Day Of Mellowmas.) Whenever I hear this song, I can’t help but sing along, and that includes wah-wah’ing out the lead guitar line that opens the track.
That being said, my GOD were these guys pussies of the highest order or what? I wonder if there was ever a showdown – Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek on one side, and England Dan and John Ford Coley on the other – in some sort of wuss-off. I don’t know, a “Who Can Tiptoe The Quietest Around The Ladies” contest or something. Everything about this song – from the meek vocal to some of the word choices in the lyrics – just screams “wuss.”
However, there’s a sentiment behind this song that is quite anti-Mellow Gold. I admit that I didn’t figure it out until recently, when I started to write this entry. If you don’t know the story behind the tune, the lyrics seem much wussier than they actually are. It’s about a man (and I use that term very, very loosely) who gets cold feet on his way to marry his lady (and I use the term accurately). Like I said: the anti-Mellow Gold. Mellow Deception, if you will. And I gotta tell you – a Mellow Man who’s not willing to commit makes absolutely no sense to me. This is really messing with my head right now.
Well I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damned depressed
That I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed
These lyrics make perfect sense when the above background story is applied: it’s the day of the wedding, he’s all dolled up in his powder-blue ruffled tuxedo, but realizes he can’t take the plunge, so he takes off the badass suit. However, out of context, all you wonder is why our protagonist is making a big deal about taking off his clothes after being bummed out. Then again, I wouldn’t question most mellow artists over such a move. Y’know, they wanna get close to nature or something. Or they’re high.
I ain’t ready for the altar but I do agree there’s times
When a woman sure can be a friend of mine
I’m more of a music guy than a lyrics guy, but I do tend to prefer lyrics that actually sound like they’re taken from a real conversation. That first line is okay, but “when a woman sure can be a friend of mine” is just about the worst lyric imaginable (y’know, other than “the heat was hot” from “A Horse With No Name”).
Well, I keep on thinkin’ ’bout you, Sister Golden Hair surprise
And I just can’t live without you, can’t you see it in my eyes?
“Paul Is Dead” has absolutely nothing on the mysterious theories surrounding that first line. Who IS Sister Golden Hair, anyway (and more importantly, why do we care)? I keep thinking of Cousin Itt, personally, but that’s not as wacky as some of the other ideas as to the identity of this mysterious woman. Some think that it’s just a lover. Some think that it’s a nun (“Sister”). Some think that it’s Stevie Nicks. (I made that up, but it’s not really too far-fetched, is it?) But my favorite theory is that Sister Golden Hair is actually…his half-sister. I swear I’m not making this up – check out the Songfacts page, and look for the unbearably long comment. Here’s just a snippet. Educate us, Rob from Toronto:
The song is about a letter he writes to her after years of painful waiting for her to catch up to him in years and reach adulthood, and to see if they can move on without one-another, metaphorically, sunday but then monday means several painful years of tenuous, cautious, cat-like commitment to being there when she’s ready.
I realize the irony in making fun of a person like Rob, who sits around all day, deeply analyzing Mellow Gold songs like “Sister Golden Hair.” But fuck it, I’m making fun of him anyway. “Tenuous, cautious, cat-like commitment?” Dude, I’m not saying you’re interested in your own half-sister, but just in case, I’d put your relatives on high alert.
I’ve been one poor correspondent, and I’ve been too, too hard to find
But it doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind
Imagine for a second that you’re the bride, standing in front of a church of 80 people, wondering where your groom is. When he finally shows up, he gives you this line. How long before you kick him in the nuts?
Will you meet me in the middle, will you meet me in the air?
Will you love me just a little, just enough to show you care?
Another line that seems much wussier without the background story. “Will you love me just a little” is on the same level as “Do you have a love I can borrow?”. However, when the asshole-ditching-the-bride theory is applied, I actually find myself a little appalled that this guy is asking the bride to actually backtrack. “No, no, don’t love me like ‘you wanna marry me’ love me. Love me just a little. Just enough to show you care, so I can go back to watching the game.”
Well I tried to fake it, I don’t mind sayin’, I just can’t make it
While normally a phrase like “I just can’t make it” is par for the course around here, when put into context, we can only draw one conclusion. This guy is a Mellow Dick.
Okay, enough with the lyrical analysis. So the guy’s a jerk. It doesn’t change the fact that America were right up there with the best of the Mellow Gold artists, and “Sister Golden Hair” is a terrific, wimpy tune. Who doesn’t love this music? It’s a wonderful gentle rock groove, dominated by acoustic guitars and fantastic backing vocals. Even the electric guitars are gentle enough that you barely notice ’em.
Here’s a great video of America performing “Sister Golden Hair” live:
I love this video for many reasons, but mainly because of the unabashed dorkiness of Gerry Beckley.
What was he, like, 14? Remind you of anyone?
Thanks for reading, as always, and see you next week for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!