I was just thinking about this topic as I was riding into work today. So, I wanted to get it in before I forgot about it. Call it my High Fidelity list for Monday, doubled.
As I continue to shun the new wave of bubblegum pop from the firework shooting bra, names with dollar signs in them set, I wanted to look back at some of the greats of old school music. You know, the kind you hate and I love. The outlaw songs are a great piece of history and I had to pay some respect to the great ones.
The premise of the song is about being on the wrong side of the law, an anti-hero. Usually, the protagonist is usually not going to make it at the end, or perhaps they do. There’s a bit of a taboo to root for them but they are still a fascinating subject. So, I give you my Top Ten Favorite Outlaw Songs. Feel free to comment on this list or add your own.
“Pancho and Lefty” – Willie Nelson
I've been a fan of Willie since I was a wee one. I've even played a few Willie songs, including this one, with my father-in-law's band, We Don't Look Good Naked, Anymore. It's just a great song about the Mexican Federales and bandits and betrayal.
“Renegade” - Styx
Being from Pittsburgh, this is on the list immediately. But, it's more than just a Steelers fight song. It's a great part of the soundtrack to Supernatural and it's in direct line of sight to my childhood. My sister was a big fan of Styx. Of course, that was before they went all showy with "Mr. Roboto". Yes, Pieces of Eight, The Grand Illusion and Paradise Theater were fond memories.
“Paul Revere” – Beastie Boys
Next to "Sabotage", my favorite song of theirs is this one. It's the fictional telling of how they came together and they are outlaws who are about to get ill.
“Take the Money and Run” – Steve Miller
I refer to this song as being one of the cornerstones of the soundtrack to a movie that will never get made. It's a very 70s, Tex-Mex Bonnie and Clyde outlaw song complete with cop in pursuit.
“I Shot the Sheriff” – Bob Marley
How could not have this in a list of outlaw songs. 'Nuff said.
“Copperhead Road” – Steve Earle
Bluesy, twangy, rocking, Post Vietnam southern tale of moonshiners and drug runners. Bagpipes, via a keyboard to boot. Love this song. It is one of my favorite anti-hero songs from the 80s.
“Gimme Some Water” – Eddie Money
There were four music acts that permeated my childhood, Johnny Cash, Styx, Journey, and Eddie Money. Now, I didn't know this song much as a child but I heard it into my teens and it's a staple on WDVE, the local classic rock station here in the Burgh. You've got the hangman's tree, being caught by the law, killing a man and the Mexican Border.
“The Highwayman” – Highwaymen
The supergroup of Cash, Kristoferson, Jennings, and Nelson did a cover of Jimmy Webb's song and even Glen Campbell did it, but it wasn't as popular as it was with The Highwaymen. Of course, the first part of the song is the only one dedicated to an outlaw or actual Highwayman, but still, you've got the Mount Rushmore of rebel country music performing it. That outweighs the overall composition lacking true outlaw lyrics.
“Sin Nombre” / “Wanted” / “Banditos” – The RefreshmentsIf you've never heard of The Refreshments, I weep for you. If you've ever heard of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, then you have to check out their earlier stuff before Mercury Records screwed them over. The Refreshments had three albums, one containing most of the tracks from their first album, Wheelie, called Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy. It contained a lot Southwestern Arizona and Tex-Mex styled songs, like Banditos, arguably their most famous song. But their last album, The Bottle and Fresh Horses went completely across the border with two of my favorites, Sin Nombre and Wanted. Sin Nombre has that outlaw gasping for breath, looking for shelter while on the lam. Hit and hurt, he dreams of comfort and clean water. Wanted is more poppy and upbeat, a love song set in today's world but deals with the outlaws of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico mystique of the earlier days.
"East Bound and Down" Jerry Reed
The Southern Fried tale of The Bandit making a bootleg run of Coors Beer from Texarkana to Atlanta provided the backdrop to one of my favorite moments of childhood, CBs. We would go on vacation as a convoy of station wagons and trucks to the beach, using CBs to communicate with other vehicles in the group. At one point, my friend commandeered the CB microphone with his Walkman and played this song from the Smokey and the Bandit soundtrack much to the probable anger of the other truckers on channel 19.
“Theme From the Dukes of Hazzard” – Waylon Jennings
I had to include this as an honorable mention because it's quite simply one of the most memorable outlaw songs of my youth. I watched The Dukes of Hazzard, religiously, when I was a kid,. I even watched the season without Bo and Duke. Of course, looking back on the reruns when they began airing on what used to be called, TNN, The Nashville Network, they did seem a bit cheesy. Still, can't argue with the lyrics and its singer, The Balladeer, himself, Waylon Jennings.