Friday, December 30, 2005

"San Quentin, I hate every inch of you..."

I'm pissed off today. The Saint inadvertently tossed an envelope yesterday. It wasn't technically inadvertent. She fully intended to toss the envelope. She just didn't realize that I'd outlined ten chapters of my novel on it. In nice shorthand and code... A couple of days up in smoke.

Not her fault. She was just cleaning up. I should have put the damned envelope in my briefcase. So I'm pissed at myself.

But I'm back at work. Prison is central to this new novel. I need to be realistic in the portrayal, right?

Random Thought #1: The best prison album of all time is Johnny Cash at San Quentin. Puts me right inside the walls every time I hear it. Brings my mood right down into the gutter, in a good way. But I wore out two copies of the cassette a long time ago... And in the only other CD version I'd heard, you can't hear the son of a bitch. Shel Silverstein, the Chicago poet and children's author, wrote the spectacular "A Boy Named Sue." The poem is really goofy, laugh out loud funny. If you haven't heard it, you should. If you have heard it, you already know where I'm going.

Back to the poem-song. The whole premise is that an old drunk names his son Sue, then abandons the family. The son ends up as much a derelict as his father. Then they meet in a bar and try to kill each other... Very heartwarming.

The father convinces the son not to kill him, in part by saying, "I'm the son of a bitch that named you Sue." Except that for 30 years, all you hear is a bleeeeeeeep! instead of "son of a bitch."

Then Columbia re-released the CD... complete, unedited, with 9 songs not on the original release.

I bought it at the mall today: And there's a glorious, bleep-free "son of a bitch." I'm in heaven.

Imagine a guy walking into a prison and joking about all the dope stashed in his gear, then singing "Folsom Prison Blues," "A Boy Named Sue," "Wanted Man," and dropping the bomb right down the smokestack with "San Quentin."

In a room full of prisoners, he's singing:

"San Quentin, you've been livin' Hell to me..." Inmates half a step away from rioting.

"San Quentin, I hate every inch of you..." With the warden in the room.

"San Quentin, may you rot and burn in Hell..." Guards everywhere.

It's quintessential Johnny Cash. In your face for 18 songs. You'll never again think of him as (just) a country singer if you listen to this album. Sure, there's a country beat, and quite a bit of rockabilly, but this CD flat out rocks. There are about 80 reasons why Johnny Cash is one of only two men in the Rock and Roll, Country Music and Songwriters Halls of Fame (the other is Hank Williams). But this record is Exhibit A.

All the Cash purists love it, and thousands of country-music-haters became converts, just with this album.

Cash in Full Badass Rock Star mode... Johnny Cash in full Outlaw Country mode... all at once, with some Gospel thrown in at the end.

By the way: Right after Cash played "San Quentin"...

He played it again. Because the inmates requested it. Another one down the smokestack.

Random Thought #2: I lost all those outlined chapters.

I got most of them back by listening to Johnny Cash at San Quentin. Just getting back in the mood was enough to trigger all those lost thoughts.

What was seeming like a bad day just got a whole lot better. In fact, it's a great day.

Adam

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Guyot said...

I'm sorry, but I think Cash at Folsom is better.

You've got to hear the entire performance, uncut, to really appreciate it.

But SQ is good, no doubt.

:)

2:23 AM, December 31, 2005  
Blogger Adam Hurtubise said...

I think you may be right, Paul.

But I don't own Folsom, so I can't say it's better.

I used to own it, but don't any more. I used to have the old SQ as well, so perhaps having the new SQ, uncut, unbleeped, has clouded my judgment.

I could rephrase that point to say that Johnny Cash made the best prison album ever. Then I'd definitely be right.

I'll hold your comment under advisement until I grab Folsom next week.

Adam

9:21 PM, December 31, 2005  

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