Song Of The Day 6/23/2012: James Taylor - "I Was Only Telling A Lie"

A few years ago when I was creating music playlists for a living (and oh what a living it was) I came up with a great idea for a theme: Songs Sung In The Character Of Contemptible Reprobates By Musicians Who Are Universally Known For Being Extremely Nice Guys In Real Life. Not long after that my workplace suddenly instituted shorter word counts, but that's not the point.

Finding enough songs to fit the bill proved to be a daunting mission. You just don't come across any instances of Dan Fogelberg singing in the voice of an axe murderer, or Debby Boone singing as a meth-addicted baby-napper, or John Denver singing in the voice of a lobbyist. I abandoned the idea, but didn't forget about it.

James Taylor had two great songs that could have fit this theme. One was "Johnnie Comes Back" from 1979. Taylor takes on the character of a snaky lout who happily takes in a jonesing drug addict, allowing her access to his "medicine chest" in exchange for sex. Well, we assume it's sex. The song doesn't say directly. But you know those crafty songwriters and their whole "less-is-more" thing. (Sit down, Jim Steinman, we're not discussing you at the moment.)

The character in "I Was Only Telling A Lie" (from 1977's JT album) doesn't stoop to quite the same level of corruption as the guy in "Johnnie Comes Back." But I think "Telling A Lie" is the better song. James sings from the point of view of a truck driver (again I assume) who favors dingy environs, all the better to seduce a local food service worker, ply her with a 12-pack of cheap domestic, and for lack of immediate access to a more, shall we say, dispositionally precise phrase, tell her he's in love with her.

Next day he wakes up and -- well, you probably get where this Brontë-Sisters-On-Jagermeister tale is headed.
Post a Comment

Popular Recent Posts