Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ballad of a Well-Known Gun

Bernie's telling Old West yarns again on this, Tumbleweed Connection's lead cut. The singer is a gunfighter who is wanted by the law- for what, it isn't specified although a "starving family" is mentioned in the chorus- and gets busted by the Pinkertons as he gets off a stagecoach. Apparently tired of being on the lam, he resigns himself to his fate.

Musicwise, Elton sets this in the default Tumbleweed Band/Dylan country-rock style, with chickenscratch guitar licks leading off and cowbell providing percussion throughout. This track is also another example of the really nice backing vocals he had on his early albums, featuring some of the best session singers of the day- and the back-and-forth between Elton and them as they repeat the chorus on the fadeout is very catchy.

I've always thought this was one of the best cuts on the album, even though lyrically it could have been sharper; lines like "I tapped my feet in dumb surprise" (say what now?) and "I couldn't have faced your desert sand/Old burning brown backed beast" (who the what the where?) kinda clunk it up a bit in my opinion, although Elton sings them convincingly.


thom de plume said...

Come on, now...

"Burning brown backed beast" is a good line.

Kudos, Bernie!

Johnny B said...

It's the context that throws me, though- is the singer fretting about having to cross the desert on a horse? It's just too vague.