I know this topic is overdone by many a blog, so here I am weighing in with my 2 cents on the topic (and maybe approaching it from a slightly different angle). Story songs have been around forever…
Some are enjoyable little ditties we can sing along with, or cringe at how corny they are.
Others…? Well they make us want to weep, hide under the covers, or just drown our sorrows in cheap whiskey…
These are those songs for me. my own personal list of the ten most creepy and/or depressing story songs (in no particular Order).
1) Angie Baby–Helen Reddy
This song has given me the creeps since I was a kid. Rightfully so. The haunting, weird melody only makes it more creepy.
It’s the story of a weird, anti-social girl who is apparently “touched” (insane) and is kept out of school because she is a danger to herself and those around her. She listens to the radio all day…in her room. A nasty vouyer decides to do more than just peep at her, and breaks into the house intending to rape her. But…he disappears.
TO add extra creepiness to the story the fate of the boy is rather obscured in the lyrics, and everyone has their own existential POV on what happened. I always thought Angie hit him over the head with the radio, and killed him and has his body hidden somewhere in the room.
Apparently Angie was not only “touched” but had magical powers (a la Carrie), to unleash on evildoers…and that was the real reason she was kept home from school.
However, Ms. Reddy herself has been known to say “She turned him into a sound wave.”
While the author of the song Alan O’Day (and others) have stated that she turned the tables on him and shrunk him, holding him hostage in her radio.
2) The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia–Vicki Lawrence, (and later covered by Reba McIntire)
While not as ambiguous as Angie Baby, this song also has a haunting melody and is equally well-sung female narrator. It’s more depressing than scary (unless of course you live in the south where they hang you first and ask questions later). It’s a good song, but it has always kind of depressed me.
The narrator tells the story of her Brother who just returned to town, and stopped to have a drink with his so-called friend Andy. Andy then proceeds to callously tell the Brother that his wife is cheating with not only some guy named Seth, but also with Andy himself. (Why Brother doesn’t just sucker punch the schmuck right then and there is totally beyond me…other than the fact that it would make for a very short song).
The story goes on to say that the Brother went and got the shotgun his father left him, and headed to Andy’s house where he saw small footprints…and then found that Andy was already dead.
In perhaps the most swiftest version of criminal injustice and police corruption in folk music history, the sheriff arrests him and hangs him ASAP because the judge wants to get home to dinner.
They hang the Brother without realizing that the footprints were too small to be his. They belonged to his little sister (the Narrator). And, if they had held off and gave him a real trail the next morning, then the sister would have had time to confess that SHE had killed both Andy and the cheating wife, whose body she had hidden somewhere.
So, the judge has “bloodstains on his hands” for hanging an innocent man.
Some also mention that (according to the Reba video) Andy was the sister’s fiance, and possibly the sheriff, “backwoods Southern Lawyer,” and the judge were all sleeping with the hussy wife whose body was never found.
Just depressing, when you think that she couldn’t save her brother from the corrupt, unscrupulous lawmen.
However, in the music video that plays in my mind whenever I hear this song the sharpshooter little sister frees her brother from the noose, and they both ride off into the sunset…. Ah, creative license.
3). Hazard–Richard Marx
Clearly, this was his version of the Night The Lights Went Out…
Love triangle/cheating, corrupt sheriff, murder mystery, and haunting music.
Strangely enough, there’s just as much ambiguity as Angie Baby.
The video shows that they have no evidence to believe the narrator killed “Mary” even though he saw her in the car with another guy, so they rule the death a suicide. Totally depressing.
4.) Coward of the County–Kenny Rogers.
Scary (the verse about rape), melancholy, depressing, and filled with “WTF?”
Tommy’s jailbird father, who apparently has rage issues warns him “not to do the things I done.”
Meaning, don’t go around starting fights. Tommy must have took this to mean “don’t stand up for yourself, ever.”
Once again, an old folksy country song reveals small-mindedness in a southern town. And, because Tommy refuses to lose his cool, they assume that he was a “coward.” Talk about a rush to judgement.
Apparently, This leads the town thugs “Catlin Boys” think they have the right to bully him, and his girlfriend Becky who they rape. THIS finally makes Tommy realize not to take his father’s words too literally, and apparently he proves what a man he is by finally standing up for himself and kicking a little Catlin ass, until “not a single one was standing.” Yes, a happy ending but the rape lyrics always give me the creeps.
Still though, thoughs bullies got what was coming to them…and Tommy proved that the town was wrong about him.
Yet, I race for the dial on the radio so I can change the channel before I hear the lyrics “The Catlin boys came callin…” *shudders*
5) The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald–Gordon Lightfoot
A very sad song, that actually is about a true shipwreck. I literally get a lump in my throat, whenever I hear this song, especially when I hear the lyrics “The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
6) The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)…
And, basically the whole entire musical. When I was a Theater & Dance major in college, I watched it on A&E Starring Angela Landsbury. But, even before act 1 Scene 1 had ended, it had given me the absolute creeps (to the point where I couldn’t bring myself to see the film staring Two of my favorite actors, Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman).
It’s depressing and creepy at the same time, as it sings of the man who had everything taken from him by (once again) a corrupt judge who exiled him on false charges, just so that he could lure Sweeney’s wife into a rapacious trap. THe innocent man returns to town as “The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” whose specialty is an extra-close shave, in which he slits his victims throats…and he’s anxious to shave a certain judge and avenge his family.
7) All the Young Girls Love Alice–Elton John
I have to admit that I love the upbeat rock song by Sir Elton, which features his excellent piano playing. However, the lyrics tell of a teenage lesbian, whose so-called friends only use her…and she dies a sad, lonely death in the subway.
8) The killing of Georgie–Rod Stewart
UGH! Again this song is way too sad. A song about a young, starstruck man who became the “toast of Broadway” and sadly met his demise at the hand of gay-bashing thugs.
I haven’t listened to this song in decades…because I can’t. It’s too morose and depressing, especially in the “part 2″ version where Rod croons “Georgie, Stay…Don’t take your breath away.”
9) Ode to Billy Joe–Bobbie Gentry. Truly depressing, eerie, and disturbing song about teen suicide. Like Angie Baby, the song is often debated and speculated about. What was the thing that was thrown off the bridge before Billy jumped? Was it an an actual baby or was it a rag doll? was it a suicide note? An engagement ring? Was it something related to him being bi-curious? Does it even have anything to do with why he jumped?
What adds to the creepiness is the blaze’ manner in which the parents of the narrator handle the news of the death of the boy that “had no sense.” And, her mothers implicating that she knew of her daughter’s closeness with Billy.
10) Teen Angel can you hear me?–Niether know nor care who this is by.
There are no words to describe how deeply I LOATHE this song. Not only because it’s depressing, but because IMO it sucks beyond belief. Sad to think what passed for music in the ’50s.
So how about you? What story songs do you find sad, depressing, unsettling, or just plain annoying?