I Lived to Tell It All
Issued to tie in with George Jones' tell-all autobiography of the same name, this album picks up Jones' story at one of its most infamous low points. Married to his first wife, Shirley, the King of Country Music is reduced to driving into town on a lawn mower to procure more firewater. "She took away my keys," he sings in "Honky-Tonk Song," ". . . and now she won't drive me to drink."
Jones didn't pen any of the ten tunes here, but his name is written all over them. Just a gander at titles like "Hundred-Proof Memories" and "I'll Give You Something to Drink About" tells you that I Lived to Tell It All finds Jones as nature intended and Nashville can no longer tolerate. At least he has the political correctness to appoint a designated driver in two songs, even if one of them is a patrol officer.
If it's digs at the New Nashville regime you want, check out "Billy B. Bad," an update of Johnny B. Goode's saga of fame and fortune. It's all here, from the glib image-making of achy-breaky heartthrobs ("He's building up his biceps for his video") to the achy-fakey dues-paying ("They played him some Strait, they played him some Jones/Now he's got that country music way down in his bones").
Jones' impeccable phrasing is never more evident than in "It Ain't Gonna Worry My Mind," a moving elegy to human patience that recalls Ray Charles' early stabs at country music like "That Lucky o' Sun." Unlike contemporary country artists, who come yee-hawing outta the gate, Jones hasn't forgotten that the rest of us live in a world of turmoil and bad personal decisions we're stuck with. It's sure goddamned nice to hear somebody with a drawl sing about them once in a while.
No matter how convincingly Johnny Lydon snarls "We mean it, maaaahn" into network cameras on the Late Show With David Letterman, everybody knows in his safety-pinned heart that he doesn't, and the Sex Pistols reunion tour is a bigger and more pointless exercise in con artistry than The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle ever was.
The reunited Buzzcocks have no such existential problems. Pete Shelley never called for the wholesale destruction of the monarchy or the show-biz establishment (nearly the same thing, really). Petey boy just wants to be loved--is that so wrong? Somebody oughta just give him a hug and tuck him into bed, since the only thing these Buzzzzzzzzcocks songs are All Set on is automatic pilot. The unimaginative, formula-one punk that drives these tracks makes Shelley's solo hit "Homosapien" seem like the work of a vastly superior intelligent life form.