Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Another Country Song

On the way to work this morning I heard one of my all time favorite country songs, Drivin’ My Life Away by Eddie Rabbit.

If you don’t know it, you don’t listen to Country.

Here are the lyrics, but they’re just part of the appeal:

Well the midnight headlight find you on a rainy night
Steep grade up ahead slow me down makin no time
Gotta keep rollin
Those windshield wipers slappin out a tempo
Keepin perfect rhythm with the song on the radio
Gotta keep rolling

Ooh I'm driving my life away, looking for a better way, for me
Ooh I'm driving my life away, looking for a sunny day

Well the truck stop cutie comin' on to me
Tried to talk me into a ride said I wouldn't be sorry
But she was just a baby
Well waitress pour me another cup of coffee
Pop me down jack me up shoot me out headin down the highway
Lookin for the morning

Ooh I'm driving my life away, looking for a better way, for me
Ooh I'm driving my life away, looking for a sunny day

Why do I like that song? It starts with just a rhythm guitar that picks up into a steady, 4/4 beat that I want to describe as “driving,” but I’m intimidated by the pun.

The rhythm is reminiscent of the sound of a big rig’s tires rolling down the interstate hissing on the wet pavement. The lyrics present an instant visual image of headlights reflecting off the rain water into your eyes. What else could he mean by the “midnight headlight FIND you on a rainy night?” Those eight words give me a picture of a weary driver half-blinded by the oncoming headlights, wishing he were somewhere else, ANYwhere else.

With the next line you enter his thoughts (stream of consciousness). His mantra is repeated twice, “Gotta keep rollin’.”

Then the next two lines about the wipers keeping time with the music on the radio... I’ve had that experience. Have you? It’s rare and almost magical when it happens. And, “slapping out a tempo.” Is that the perfect verb, or what?

His chorus is a lament. Wasted days and wasted nights. Wanting something better. Knowing he’s not going to find it driving this truck, but what else is there? It’s all he knows, and all he has. Yeah, all of that is in there. You just have to listen for it.

Ah, the second verse! Does that not paint you a picture? Can’t you just see him ease into a truck stop for a break, so stiff he can hardly make it out of the cab onto the parking lot? He avoids the puddles as he limps across the pavement. He sits at the counter.

Then the sex scene. A girl half his age tries to hustle him for a ride and maybe more. But he’s been around the block a few times and knows what she’s up to. He dismisses her with a turn of the head. “She was just a baby.” Five words that give me a complete picture of his disdain.

He looks to the waitress for what he really needs. Coffee. And a couple of little white pills. Of course they’re in there! “Pop me down, jack me up, shoot me out heading down the highway.” Jacked up, he’s “lookin’ for the morning.”

I love a song that tells such a complete story in just a few words. From just those two short verses and a chorus you can find enough material and imagery to produce a two-hour movie. I can see him in a dysfunctional marriage (because he’s never at home), burned out from driving, cynical as hell about life in general, but with JUST enough hope to keep “lookin’ for a better way for me.” I could write a sappy, happy ending. Or have him strung out on drugs dying in a blazing crash that angers his boss because the truck’s cargo was ruined and the insurance won’t pay.

Songs can transport you into your imagination. It takes a combination of tempo, rhythm, key (major, minor), tight lyrics and sometimes voice inflection and harmony.

I think this song has all of those.


Anonymous said...

Interesting observations. I too find myself transported by certain songs - sometimes just a few words can give you such a complete picture in your head that it's uncanny. Knowing you though, I just have one question regarding a statement you make: "... I want to describe as “driving,” but I’m intimidated by the pun." - since when? Ha, ha, ha...

Duke_of_Earle said...

Ah, Christina, you know me too well. You grew up cringing at my puns. I wasn't really "intimidated." I was just pointing it out to anyone not clever enough to see it on their own. You of course, after all the training you received from me, would have known it for what it was with no help.

ddddddddddddddddddddd said...

Hey, country music is my life. That is gettin older though, I have only started to rediscover country in the last four years.