Saturday, June 19, 2010

Where Have You Gone, Billy Mack?

Every Friday afternoon a local radio station kicks off the weekend with its “Songs of the 70’s” tribute that lasts until Sunday night. St. Pauli Girl usually has it cranked throughout the house all weekend. This is fine; I don’t mind. I now find K.C. and the Sunshine Band very amusing and you can never get enough “MacArthur Park” in one weekend. (Sadly, I have discovered that the entire decade of the 70’s consisted of only 50 songs.) But it makes St. Pauli Girl happy, and when she’s happy, everyone wins!

Inevitably, we get to hear the Steve Miller Band’s song “Take the Money and Run” at least twice a weekend. This song bugs me beyond belief. And it’s not that I have animosity towards Steve Miller or think he’s just some party boy scoring big with the groupies. It’s because it’s the most incomplete song in the history of the universe. Every time I hear it, the unfinished lyrics drive me crazy. Why did he do this? Why? Why? Why?

So let me sum up the song as the verses go (or see for yourself):

Billy Joe and Bobby Sue like to get high and watch tv
So they went to El Paso and shot a man while robbing his castle
Billy Mack is a detective who won’t let them escape justice
Bobby Sue slipped away, Billy Joe caught up and they got away

Scintillating. Okay, what happened to Billy Mack? Why do we even meet him? Bobby Sue slipped away? How exactly? Billy Joe caught up? How? Where? Was Billy Mack on their trail? Did he even try to catch them or was it just an empty promise?

Every time I hear this song I have to wonder what was going through Steve Miller’s head. I mean, surely he left off a verse or two. A producer must have cut out half the song to make it more radio-friendly. Or maybe Steve just ran out of rhymes. I can only guess that rhyming “facts is” with “taxes” took everything he had.

At any rate, I’ve come up with some Unfinished Song Theory scenarios:

Steve Miller: I got this great idea for a song. It has rhymes like “hassle” and “castle.”

Producer: I got it! Throw in “El Paso” and you have a hit.

Steve Miller: I also got “Texas,” “facts is,” and “taxes.”

Producer: Whoa dude! Stop while you’re ahead! Let’s go smoke a doobie.

Steve Miller: I got this great idea for a song. It’s about these kids on a quest to get money. Kind of like “The Illiad.” I’ll turn it into a whole concept album. It includes this character named Billy Mack who’s straight out of Jason and the Argonauts. It’s a little long, kind of like “MacArthur Park” except interesting.

Producer: Hmm. Tell you what: you record it, and after we smoke a doobie or two I’ll remix it to make it radio-friendly.

Another theory is that Steve Miller was so high while recording it that the producer waved a twinkie in front of him so Steve thought he’d better wrap up the song before the twinkie got away. (This would also explain the “Aooogggaaa!” during the fade-out.)
It’s like rewriting the “Star Spangled Banner” to:

Oh say can you see
Yep, the flag’s still there.

Maybe he had a crazy old uncle who told him a story about some hijinks from 1935:

“So Bobby Sue, who’s a looker, grabbed the cash. Then Billy Joe shot Boyd. Right between the eyes. They say his eyes turned back in his head watching the bullet go through his brain. Then they skedaddled. But my best friend Billy Mack was hot on their trail. He had a big ol’ magnifying glass, fingerprint dust and a hound’s nose. He swore he’d catch those young thievin’ hippie drugged out kids. Yep.”

“Then what happened Uncle Stan?”

“They got away.”

“That’s it?”

“Who wants blueberry pie?”

Maybe it was a really bad incomplete joke:

Joker: Knock, knock.

Guest: Who’s there?

Joker: Ken I come in, it’s freezing out here.

Guest: Ken I come in, it’s freezing out here who?

Joker: No wait. What?

Depending on your point of view, we should be happy Steve Miller wasn’t a novelist. If you’re a student who has to do book reports, then maybe you wish he had written a novel:

Student: Today’s book report is “The Da Vinci Code” by Steve Miller. Some dude gets whacked in an El Paso museum. So Robert Langdon has to go catch the killer. Then there’s this hot police cryptographer chick named Bobby Sue who swears she’s going to get justice. And Robert catches the killer in the end. It’s a great book; it’s like five pages. With big print! I listened to the audio version during a commercial for Sponge Bob Squarepants.”

Perhaps I’ll never know the story behind the song. (Okay, one final complaint: was rhyming “El Paso” with “hassle” really that important? Because they end up singing “oooh, old, El Paso” to fill in the line when they could have just sung “Waxahachie.”) But just know that at least three times this weekend I’ll be wondering what the hell ever happened to Billy Mack and how exactly did Bobbie Sue slip away?

And I have one last thought about Steve Miller…..

Yeah, he had that coming.

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