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Evenin' was at midnight when I heard that local blow - Charlie Patton, Moon Goin' Down

Author Topic: Blind Willie McTell lyrics  (Read 48535 times)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #60 on: November 11, 2008, 08:49:38 AM »
And from Sex-Lexis.com

 http://www.sex-lexis.com/Sex-Dictionary/tap-dance

tap-dance:
Of a male, to masturbate . See masturbation-male for synonyms.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #61 on: November 12, 2008, 11:38:27 AM »
I picked up this discussion in the thread I posted on the Back Porch, way back when (Broke Down Engine), in response to the Scottish perfesser:
Quote
Scratch, you might remember this thread from back when I started workin' on it where we discussed various "interpretations" of the line. I never followed up to post that I eventually got ahold of the Buddy Moss versions, in one of which he pretty clearly says, "can I get down, snake like, tap it flat, and tip light 'cross your floor" so that's how I've been singin' it.

I think McTell is possibly saying, or meaning to say, "snake level" instead of "snake like" but it does seem likely that Buddy would have learned the song directly from McTell, so I'm taking his rendering as pretty strong testimony.

But hey, great research on your alternate theory there Mr. O'M. You could probably get a grad school thesis outa that.-G- Might try lookin' for some other references to masturbation in pre war blues. Maybe Buddy was too proud (given oddenda's recent testimony) to admit to a little snake pullin' in song, so he rewrote the line? Yeah, that's the ticket. What Willie was tryin' to say was: "Guess I'll get down, snake pullin' til its flat, then drip mine on the floor."

 HEEEHAAAWWW! (pre-emptive)

Sorry, couldn't resist once the notion struck me. Seriously, you really think so? I assume you were joking in your usual pranksterish way. 'Boy who cried wolf' and all that.

To me he's talking about sneaking into her room, in one way or another. That's certainly how Buddy reads it.

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2008, 12:07:05 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #62 on: November 12, 2008, 01:05:12 PM »
I thought that the clues might be leading up to an act of seminal floor coating Mr. Waxwing, but rejected that as being unlikely not to mention disgusting. No, I was thinkin' more along the lines of him tempting her with the prospect of installing two ply carpet. Maybe. I mean the gift offering thing for sexual favors is all over the Blues so why not two ply carpet? But It somehow doesn't seem an entirely convincing interpretation either.
I'll have to ruminate on the Buddy Moss transcription, and also hear it for myself. Its not quite adding up for me yet.

I've wanted to have someone in Georgia go find and elderly African American fellow who may have been conversant in the local idioms of the period (or shortly there after) and have him listen to the line and try to decipher it. Any Georgians out there up for this slightly weird assignment?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #63 on: November 12, 2008, 01:51:43 PM »
OR.....
what if he's actually addressing this line to his competition, namely Blind Lemon Jefferson and in particular his Black Snake Moan? What are the release dates of the two songs? Could Broke Down Engine be a response?

"Can I get down snake lemon and tappin plantin' two ply on your floor"

Can I thwart Blind Lemon's black snake's progress across the floor which would be accomplished with a 'tappin'" cane by muffling the noise with two ply carpet?

Its out there I'll admit but things do have to make a certain kind of sense....maybe.


My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #64 on: November 13, 2008, 01:49:23 AM »
Here you go. Both takes of Buddy's Broke Down Engine No.2.

In the first take,  the "...tap it flat and tip light 'cross your floor" seems pretty clear to me. The first part of the line sounds something like "Can I get down 'n' snake like 'n'...

In the second take he seems much less clear, in spite of the fact that his vocal is better recorded here. It's possibly something like "Can I get down at snake level and tap it flit flat tip light 'cross your floor." Sounds like he's almost cracking as he over emphasizes the "tip" after correcting himself on the "tap it flit/flat".

Anyway, clearly open to interpretation, so make of it what you will, sir.

Personally, rather than saying something to our idea of his competition, Lemon and Blake, I think there may more likely be something going on between McTell and his real competition, the other Atlanta players, who were, of course, also his friends. If anything, I think they may be having a joke among themselves about stumbling over a somewhat poorly constructed line. "You're singin' what?" "Oh yeah, I'm gonna sing that!" Who knows? Maybe?

The line comes around 2:25 in both takes. In the recording of Broke Down Engine he sings the first four verses of McTell's first version.

All for now.
John C.

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"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #65 on: November 13, 2008, 01:50:36 AM »
And the second take.

All for now.
John C.

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"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #66 on: November 13, 2008, 04:47:52 AM »
Thanks for those cuts Mr. Waxwing. Great on their own terms. The soup thickens! On first listening I'm fairly certain that I'm hearing more syllabic events in Moss's version of the line than in McTell's. Also it makes you realize once again what a brilliant singer McTell really was. Yeah it did occur to me that the line might be  deliberate semi gibberish of a sort, or even just unintentionally fluffed but plowed through so as not to ruin an otherwise great take.
I'll apply my arsenal of headphones to the deciphering task later today, and see what that yields.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Online Rivers

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #67 on: November 13, 2008, 06:24:12 PM »
"An arsenal of headphones", always wondered what the collective noun for headphones was...

I'm gonna dive back into this one as well, it's a great mystery that needs solving.

Offline Mal Reid

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #68 on: January 03, 2009, 05:51:29 AM »
Hello,

Can anyone help me decipher the lyrics of Blind Willie McTells A to Z Blues? I think I've managed to work out most of it, but there are a few parts (shown underlined with question marks), where I have no idea what he's saying.

Thanks for any help.


A to Z Blues.

Look-a here mama.
Can?t get along.
Honey I really tried to treat you right.
Now when I come in from work.
Give ya my check.
You wants to raise sand, fuss an fight.
Get a chance to stay out all night.
You left last night at eight.
Going to a show.
An? come smoothing in this morning at four.
You even had the nerve honey.
Bring another man.
Let him drive you up to my front door.
Say you?re through.
Ya got all my money too.
Come here woman let me tell ya what I?m gonna do to you.
I?m gonna cut your head four different ways.
That?s Long, short, deep and wide.
When I get (??? rhythm) of this rusty black handle razor
you?re gonna be booked out for an ambulance ride.
?cause I?m gonna cut A, B, C, D on top of your head
That?s gonna be treating you nice like mama you ain?t gonna be dead.
Cut E, F, G right across your face.
H, I, J, K that?s where runnin? bound to take place.
Cut L, M, N cross both your arms.
You?ll (Sell ??????? an? pedal/peddle) gal your whole life long.
Cut N, O, P, Q that?s gonna be trouble too.
?cause I?m gonna grab you mama and turn you every way but loose
Cut R, S, T to hear you cry
That?ll be the last time tears a run from over your eyes.
Cut U, V, W on the bottom of your feet.
That?ll be the last time you walk up an? down 25th street.
? marking cross your bosom with X, Y, Z.
When I get through with this alphabet
you?ll quit your messing with me.
Play that thing.
yeah, I?m gonna trim her down.
Trim her down to my size.
????? (check it an? see).
That?s the last of the A and Z.
????? (Tell her boy).

Online Rivers

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #69 on: January 03, 2009, 07:25:35 AM »
Hi Mal,

I have the version of McTell's slasher movie on Last Sessions. Slight differences throughout but this might give clues.

Quote
When I get (??? rhythm) of this rusty black handle razor

When I get this spreadin' rhythm with this rusty black handle razor

Quote
You?ll (Sell ??????? an? pedal/peddle) gal your whole life long.

No idea.

Quote
? marking cross your bosom with X, Y, Z.

Gonna mark you cross the bosom with X-Y-Z

Quote
????? (check it an? see).
Quote
????? (Tell her boy).

These two aren't on the Last Session take.

I can't imagine where you would perform this song...
« Last Edit: January 03, 2009, 07:27:40 AM by Rivers »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #70 on: January 03, 2009, 08:46:19 AM »
These two aren't on the Last Session take.

I can't imagine where you would perform this song...
Well originally it was performed on the vaudeville stage by artists like Butterbeans & Susie (refer their 1926 rendition).

I've yet to compare but I think what Mal has quoted is the 1949 Savoy rendition which was unreleased until it appeared on a 1960s compilation entitled "Livin' With The Blues". This is from the top of my head so may be way off base...

Hopefully somebody will get to this before my return.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #71 on: January 03, 2009, 08:47:58 AM »
When I get (??? rhythm) of this rusty black handle razor

On the Regal/Savoy session version (available as Pig 'n' Whistle Red on Biograph), I hear:

When I get THROUGH spreadin' rhythm with this rusty black handle razor

Quote
You?ll (Sell ??????? an? pedal/peddle) gal your whole life long.

You'll settle for drinkin' pedal/peddle?? gal your whole life long

Quote
? marking cross your bosom with X, Y, Z.

Gonna mark you cross the bosom with X-Y-Z

Quote
????? (check it an? see).

That's what I hear.

Quote
????? (Tell her boy).

Tear it up, boys.

Quote
I can't imagine where you would perform this song...

Outside a theatre screening Sweeney Todd?

This song was done in 1924 by Butterbeans and Susie, as one of those squabblin' married couple songs, though the A to Z part is all sung by Butterbeans. In that context, it is perhaps less scary, since these were meant to be comic routines -- though it's still pretty scary!

edited to add: BTW, Mal, welcome to Weeniecampbell!
« Last Edit: January 03, 2009, 11:47:32 AM by uncle bud »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #72 on: January 04, 2009, 03:52:15 PM »
The "check it and see" line is McTell's usual line to Curley Weaver -- "Kick it six."


Offline Mal Reid

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #73 on: January 06, 2009, 03:05:54 PM »
Thanks a lot everyone. You've been a lot of help.

Online Rivers

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #74 on: January 20, 2009, 04:55:26 PM »
[1 year later...]

I'm back... I had an idea about the mystery line at 2:08 today listening on phones.

Phonetically, it seems to me, it goes:

Can I get out snake lemon and tap it flat and tip light across your flo'

But I believe if you run '...out snake' together you get 'arsenic', and the rest is correct.

So: Can I get arsenic, lemon and tap it flat, and tip light across your flo'?

[edit: Listened to the Buddy Moss takes and I still reckon 'arsenic'. In take 2 he sounds slightly drunk and fluffs it]

Makes perfect sense. Not. So what might be the deal with arsenic? Nothing solid on google as yet.

[edit 2: could this be a ref to skin lightning creams? I'm getting hits on google for arsenic used for this, though so far all earlier than 1920]
« Last Edit: January 20, 2009, 05:34:50 PM by Rivers »

 


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