Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

The novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins, has nothing to do with this song. That I can see. Nor does the Gus Van Sant film adaptation of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, narrated not by John Cale but by Tom Robbins himself. Having especially little to do with this song is the album Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by k.d. lang, the soundtrack to the film (though you have a better-than-average chance of receiving that album if you try to order this one on Amazon). There ain't no whooping crane in this song.

And yet, "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" is the first line of the song's single verse, repeated again and again and again, over an audience-driven clap beat that merges with a muted electric-guitar cough, then a kick-drum thud. And Judy Nylon's repeated, drawn-out, cat-in-heat moan. I don't mean sexy, I mean a sound from deep in hell.

It might have been improvised on the spot - the CBGBs audience clap seems to start before the instruments, I think someone calls "Encore!", the lyrics in their entirety are "Even cowgirls get the blues when they're living down in Peru, moving on to Caracas on their bellies just like little rats. But it's only love.", and the whole song feels like a malaria-induced hallucination. Maybe it's a shot at someone he knew, maybe it's free-association, maybe it's just a Greek chorus for a Pynchon-lite anarchohippie novel.

Why'd they name the album after it? It's sick and unbalancing and will appeal to very few. Oh, right, I guess it is appropriate after all. Like the album in general, I find it an intense experience - unpleasant but worthwhile.


ZephyrJW said...

What's ironic is that another big Judy Nylon-performed song during those sets was "Salome - Dance of the Seven Veils." In which the unrequited royal cowgirl gets the head of John the Baptist on a platter! She dealt with HER blues!

I mean, who even WRITES songs like this besides Cale?

Inverarity said...

Warren Zevon is the only name that comes to mind. His later song topics are usually pretty mundane, though, and of course he puts an ironic spin on everything.

Cale isn't much of an ironist and he certainly doesn't choose many mundane subjects. That is, after all, why we love him. You're strange, Mr. Cale; don't change.