Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 38

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Happy Fourth of July, dear readers! What better way to celebrate this country’s independence than to review yet another tale of unabashed codependency? And, of course, in conjunction with this fine holiday, you know which band I’m obligated to cover.

America – Sister Golden Hair (download)

Yes. Yesssss. Let the mellow flow through you!

Now, mind you, I love “Sister Golden Hair.” Like all the other classic America songs, it’s so darn sweet, melodic and catchy. (You may or may not recall me going ga-ga over their cover of “Winter Wonderland,” back during The Sixth Day Of Mellowmas.) Whenever I hear this song, I can’t help but sing along, and that includes wah-wah’ing out the lead guitar line that opens the track.

That being said, my GOD were these guys pussies of the highest order or what? I wonder if there was ever a showdown – Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek on one side, and England Dan and John Ford Coley on the other – in some sort of wuss-off. I don’t know, a “Who Can Tiptoe The Quietest Around The Ladies” contest or something. Everything about this song – from the meek vocal to some of the word choices in the lyrics – just screams “wuss.”

However, there’s a sentiment behind this song that is quite anti-Mellow Gold. I admit that I didn’t figure it out until recently, when I started to write this entry. If you don’t know the story behind the tune, the lyrics seem much wussier than they actually are. It’s about a man (and I use that term very, very loosely) who gets cold feet on his way to marry his lady (and I use the term accurately). Like I said: the anti-Mellow Gold. Mellow Deception, if you will. And I gotta tell you – a Mellow Man who’s not willing to commit makes absolutely no sense to me. This is really messing with my head right now.

Well I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damned depressed
That I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed

These lyrics make perfect sense when the above background story is applied: it’s the day of the wedding, he’s all dolled up in his powder-blue ruffled tuxedo, but realizes he can’t take the plunge, so he takes off the badass suit. However, out of context, all you wonder is why our protagonist is making a big deal about taking off his clothes after being bummed out. Then again, I wouldn’t question most mellow artists over such a move. Y’know, they wanna get close to nature or something. Or they’re high.

I ain’t ready for the altar but I do agree there’s times
When a woman sure can be a friend of mine

I’m more of a music guy than a lyrics guy, but I do tend to prefer lyrics that actually sound like they’re taken from a real conversation. That first line is okay, but “when a woman sure can be a friend of mine” is just about the worst lyric imaginable (y’know, other than “the heat was hot” from “A Horse With No Name”).

Well, I keep on thinkin’ ’bout you, Sister Golden Hair surprise
And I just can’t live without you, can’t you see it in my eyes?

“Paul Is Dead” has absolutely nothing on the mysterious theories surrounding that first line. Who IS Sister Golden Hair, anyway (and more importantly, why do we care)? I keep thinking of Cousin Itt, personally, but that’s not as wacky as some of the other ideas as to the identity of this mysterious woman. Some think that it’s just a lover. Some think that it’s a nun (“Sister”). Some think that it’s Stevie Nicks. (I made that up, but it’s not really too far-fetched, is it?) But my favorite theory is that Sister Golden Hair is actually…his half-sister. I swear I’m not making this up – check out the Songfacts page, and look for the unbearably long comment. Here’s just a snippet. Educate us, Rob from Toronto:

The song is about a letter he writes to her after years of painful waiting for her to catch up to him in years and reach adulthood, and to see if they can move on without one-another, metaphorically, sunday but then monday means several painful years of tenuous, cautious, cat-like commitment to being there when she’s ready.

I realize the irony in making fun of a person like Rob, who sits around all day, deeply analyzing Mellow Gold songs like “Sister Golden Hair.” But fuck it, I’m making fun of him anyway. “Tenuous, cautious, cat-like commitment?” Dude, I’m not saying you’re interested in your own half-sister, but just in case, I’d put your relatives on high alert.

I’ve been one poor correspondent, and I’ve been too, too hard to find
But it doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind

Imagine for a second that you’re the bride, standing in front of a church of 80 people, wondering where your groom is. When he finally shows up, he gives you this line. How long before you kick him in the nuts?

Will you meet me in the middle, will you meet me in the air?

What?

Will you love me just a little, just enough to show you care?

Another line that seems much wussier without the background story. “Will you love me just a little” is on the same level as “Do you have a love I can borrow?”. However, when the asshole-ditching-the-bride theory is applied, I actually find myself a little appalled that this guy is asking the bride to actually backtrack. “No, no, don’t love me like ‘you wanna marry me’ love me. Love me just a little. Just enough to show you care, so I can go back to watching the game.”

Well I tried to fake it, I don’t mind sayin’, I just can’t make it

While normally a phrase like “I just can’t make it” is par for the course around here, when put into context, we can only draw one conclusion. This guy is a Mellow Dick.

Okay, enough with the lyrical analysis. So the guy’s a jerk. It doesn’t change the fact that America were right up there with the best of the Mellow Gold artists, and “Sister Golden Hair” is a terrific, wimpy tune. Who doesn’t love this music? It’s a wonderful gentle rock groove, dominated by acoustic guitars and fantastic backing vocals. Even the electric guitars are gentle enough that you barely notice ’em.

Here’s a great video of America performing “Sister Golden Hair” live:

[youtube]rQ3ax8NWNGA[/youtube]

I love this video for many reasons, but mainly because of the unabashed dorkiness of Gerry Beckley.

What was he, like, 14? Remind you of anyone?

Thanks for reading, as always, and see you next week for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

  • Dw Dunphy

    I’ll bite – this is my most favorite America song, which is like saying "would you prefer a hamburger or a heaping plateful of liver"… Nonetheless, it has that El-Lay sound, kinda folk/country, kinda lite rocky, the vocals aren’t hard on the ears and Beckley says "Damned" in it, so the song has balls. Tiny ones, but spherical nonetheless. Side note: if I’m not mistaken, Beatles producer George Martin produced this track too.

  • You’re correct – actually, George Martin produced seven of their albums, total.

  • Jim

    I noticed that Gerry is rocking the twelve string Ovation.  If there  was ever an official  instrument of mellowness, this is probably it.

  • woofpop

    Sister Golden Hair is on the America album  that starts with the letter "H", right – is it "Hideout" or "Hypochondriac"? Dead on with the comparison..

  • jadeyrabbit

    Anthony Michael Hall, btw, got hot. Way hot.
    So no making fun! We were all young and dorky (or old and dorky) once! (coughs)

  • jhensy

    A pop masterpiece, it brings me back to the Bicentennial summer and girls named ‘Dana’ with tube tops, feathered hair and cork wedgies. You can see several in that video.

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  • Now I’m afraid to hear the back story theories around "Daisy Jane."

  • Pete

    One of my fave America songs, along with "Tin Man". I especially like the George Martin instrumental lead-in to the latter on the album.

  • Stephen

    Honestly…maybe one of my favorite songs of all time. I don’t know if I would ever admit that in real life but it’s probably true.
    I never get tired of this song.

  • Dw Dunphy

    It’s got some major repeatability going for it – it may be second only to the Beach Boys’ "Sail On Sailor" in that respect, but on different days, vice versa.

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  • This is an America song I don’t like, although I do like "A Horse With No Name" and "You Can Do Magic."  Draw your own conclusions.  I think I’m mostly against it because of those "ooh-bop-a-ooh-wah" backing vocals, which are too cheesy for my tastes.  But last summer I rediscovered how great "Tin Man" and "Ventura Highway" are.

    "Cat-like commitment": superb!  You were hilariously right to call me — I mean, "Rob" — out on that phrase, Jason.  I’ve heard of catlike prowess and catlike agility, but are cats really that committed?  I’m not a cat owner, so I don’t know.

    Last week I visited my parents, and we talked about those "Classic Soft Rock" CDs that I got my mom for Mother’s Day and her birthday.  My dad said that the line "There’s a warm wind blowing the stars around" in "I’d Really Love to See You Tonight" is "poetry."  I then explained to him that the line is "… the stars are out," not "… the stars around."  Now he has less respect for England Dan and JFC, but at least he never thought they were talkin’ ’bout the linen.

  • Is it just me, or does Anthony Michael Hall look like he’s half robot now?

  • Ray

    I guess I must be in the minority here, but I hate this song with a passion.  We have "Lite Rock" piped in over us at work and this (along with Chicago’s "Hard To Say I’m Sorry")  is one of the LITE ROCK SONGS FROM HELL that we have to endure day in-day out.  With apologies to everyone who likes the song, if I never heard it again I would be eternally grateful.

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