Monday, July 7, 2008

From Under Her Velvet Gown, She Drew a Gun and Shot Her Lover Down

Listening to Al Dexter's "Pistol-Packin' Mama" today, it occurred to me that in the long tradition of the murder ballad, songs in which a woman does the killin' are rare but not unheard of, and this is after you discard such songs as "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" and "Killer Queen" as metaphors.

As far as other songs where a woman undoubtedly and unabashedly kills, I've got:

"Miss Otis Regrets" by Ella Fitzgerald
"The Man Who Robbed the Bank at Santa Fe" by Hank Snow
"Frankie and Johnny" by Sam Cooke and many others
"Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" by Bob Dylan
"Angie Baby" by Helen Reddy
"From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)" by Bruce Springsteen
"Goodbye Earl" by the Dixie Chicks

What else?


Scraps said...

"The Cell Block Tango" from Chicago.

Scraps said...

The traditional folk song "Lord Randal" is about a husband poisoned by his wife. It's told as an interrogation of the husband by his mother.

Scraps said...

In Jolie Holland's "Nothing To Do But Dream", a woman kills her sister.

There are a fair number of old ballads in which a woman kills a child, I think.

Robbie Bono Allman said...

So I ran home and crawled in my bed,

I couldn't sleep because of all the things she said

Then I remembered her strange perfume,

And how I smelled it was in my own room!

So I sneaked back and caught her with my man,

Laughing and kissing till they saw the gun in my hand

The next thing I knew they were dead on the floor,

Dark Lady would never turn a card up anymore

Scraps said...

Oh man, I wish I'd remembered that! I think "Dark Lady" is one of the serious contenders for worst lyrics in a hit song ever.

Robbie Bono Allman said...

I was terrified by “Dark Lady”! Even scarier than “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia.” The early 70s sure were a golden age for soft-rock killer-chick songs. Little sister don’t miss when she aims her gun.

Does Angie Baby kill that guy, or does she just keep him locked in her closet like the Gimp in “Pulp Fiction”? I’ve always wondered about the nature of Angie Baby's nefarious enterprise.

Pike said...

Didn't Vicki Lawrence shoot that nice young chap in Georgia?

Scraps said...

I thought she sucked the guy into the radio in "Angie Baby". Let's ask Alan O'Day.

Robbie Bono Allman said...

I tried asking him but he said “What?” I said “Ooo hoo hoo wee.”

I think you're right, she must've sucked the guy into the radio! Scary.

Pike said...

There are lady-boys on Seventh Avenue who'll do that for thirty bucks.

(I read that somewhere.)

Pike said...

Oops. Apologies to Robbie Bono Allman, if that really is your name. I'd read right through your Vicki Lawrence mention.

Neil Russell said...

Another man was done gone when Handsome Jack went down in the bayou to woo Marie Laveau, or so sang Bobby Bare

T. Nawrocki said...

Never to be found! As Helen explains, Everyone thinks he died except a crazy girl with a secret lover. My reading of the song is that he did die, since, you know, Angie Baby is nuts, but it's possible he didn't, but if so, he's suffering a fate worse than death.

You're right about "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," which was always too long for me to pay attention to much past the second verse. All I knew was that Andy didn't have many friends and he'd just lost one, and that the judge in the court had bloodstains on his hand. It was written by the same guy who wrote Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey," I'll have you know.

Robbie Allman Bono said...

I gotta confess, I can never really follow “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia.” (454 words! vs. 308 for “Dark Lady” and 294 for “Angie Baby.”) In the opening scene of “Reservoir Dogs,” they make fun of Chris Penn for not getting the plot, but I don’t even get it when Chris Penn explains it to me. Fred Bronson’s book says Cher passed on this and “Angie Baby”--she was obviously the murder-song go-to gal.

I can’t remember-- does anybody get killed in “Lady Marmalade”? That totally seems like a song that should have a killing in it.

Scraps said...

The liner note writer for the Have a Nice Day series, in noting that Cher had turned down "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", said that it was because Sonny Bono was afraid it would offend listeners in the South, apparently preferring, said the writer, songs like "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" and "Dark Lady" that would offend listeners everywhere.

Alan said...

You know, if "Angie Baby" was a quirky, imaginative song, the responses I've gotten over the years show that the listeners may be more so!
When I finished writing that song, I was confident that the story was clear. Turned out I was wrong, happily one of the elements of Ms. Reddy's hit was the conjecture as to what happened. It was often compared to "Ode To Billy Joe". For years, I hesitated to comment, as it was more fun to see what other people created. But I CAN tell you not to jump to conclusions that Angie was simply crazy. If you go to my website ( and click on the lower left "My Articles About Songwriting", then scroll down thru the articles, you'll find The Story of Angie Baby, which goes into much more detail. But you don't have to agree with my explanation, and I like hearing yours as well!