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Out On The Road

  • (Loudon Wainwright III)

    You walk in the room, switch on the TV
    Steffi's playing tennis on Channel Three
    Suddenly you don't feel so lonely
    Even though you're back on the road

    Open up the drawer and there's a bible
    God's own truth, but you're not liable
    To read it - you prefer myth and libel
    That's because you're out on the road

    And there's no shampoo, but you're not snobby
    Losing your toothbrush is your hobby
    Sometimes they sell that stuff in the lobby
    If you're lucky when you're out on the road

    Out on the road, out on the road
    You're Kerouac, you're Tom Joad
    You've got some new songs and an old banjo
    And you're living out on the road

    Out on the road, out on the road
    You keep on going, it's your creed and code
    A different kind o' life, it's another mode
    Living out on the road

    Well, you're packing them in so you're doing OK
    But the record company didn't pay
    So there's no percentage - well, looks that way
    Funny when you're out on the road

    Or, it's your fault that you didn't draw
    There was an ad in the paper that nobody saw
    When business is bad there ought to be a law
    Against you when you're out on the road

    There are people to avoid, there are places to miss
    Backstage access, who needs this
    The club is a toilet and you've got to take a piss
    In the sink when you're out on the road

    Out on the road, out on the road
    That's where your wild oats were sowed
    You start out a prince, you end up a toad
    You're living out on the road

    Out on the road, out on the road
    You're Kerouac, you're Tom Joad
    You've got some new songs and an old banjo
    And you're living out on the road

    Room service is a trick but rarely a treat
    So you go for the bite that can't be beat
    But how many pizzas can one man eat
    Eating out on the road

    A cat eats a fish, a dog eats a bone
    Out on the road a man eats alone
    Time to reflect and time to atone
    For his sins when he's out on the road

    Running through airports at fifty-three
    Is OK for Hamish but not for me
    With a hernia, a bad back, a bum knee
    And a banjo out on the road

    Out on the road, out on the road
    Your flight's been cancelled - I should have known
    The airport is your new abode
    When you're living out on the road

    Then it's time to go back to reality
    You're road-sick and you're half crazy
    So you fit in quite naturally
    Home from out on the road

    You're back to see the family and friends
    To face the music and make amends
    Coming up for air you can get the bends
    When you're in from out on the road

    Open up the bag - go on, expose it
    Open that window, hold your nose
    Eight weeks' worth of dirty clothes
    In from out on the road

    And Willie Nelson has a bus
    And a sound man he can kick and cuss
    And a road manager to make a fuss
    When Willie goes out on the road

    In the bus there's a VCR
    And a roadie carries his guitar
    Well, Willie deserves it, Willie's a star
    When Willie goes out on the road

    And Willie goes out four weeks at a time
    Makes a ton of money, has a life sublime
    But for me it's punishment and crime
    Why do I go out on the road

    Out on the road, out on the road
    You're Kerouac, you're Tom Joad
    You've got some new songs and an old banjo
    And you're living out on the road

    Out on the road, out on the road
    You keep on going, it's your creed and code
    If you keep on going you're going to explode
    Some day when you're out on the road

    (as sung by Iain MacKintosh)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1998:] I ask America's greatest living writer of sad songs if he is depressive by nature or if it just seems that way from his songs. 'Melancholic, maybe, but not depressive. I've been there a few times, though. [...]'

    Back in the Fifties, after he had, for a brief spell, made a living selling encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners door to door in his native Texas, Willie Nelson's first wife, Martha - who would later tie him to a bed while he was comatose and beat him senseless with a broom after discovering one of his many infidelities [cf. 'A Stitch In Time'] - cajoled him into driving to Nashville with a batch of handwritten songs. [...] Willie Nelson, the songwriter, had arrived. It would take a few years for Willie Nelson, the singer, to follow suit.

    In the meantime, with more cash than he had ever dreamt of in his pocket, the high life beckoned. Tales of Nelson's excess from that period are now part of Nashville lore. His second wife found out about an affair he was having with the woman who would become his third wife after she mistakenly opened a letter containing a bill for maternity payments. [...] Nelson was not the most popular man in Nashville. For a time, disgusted with the conservatism of the town, he quit the business altogether, moving back to his home state to become a pig farmer. When the farm burnt down, legend has it that Nelson risked his life by running into the blaze to rescue a tin pot of marijuana. In Texas, he hit the road again, playing beer halls and honky-tonks, growing his now famous ponytail. [...] Alongside Gram Parsons, Nelson helped reinvent country music [...].

    By the late Eighties, Nelson had met his nemesis: 'The taxman came looking for my ass.' Bad financial advice, coupled with an effortless ability to spend like there was no tomorrow, led him into his most recent battle with the establishment in the form of a $15million tax bill. All his property and personal belongings were seized. There is now a museum called - wait for it - Willie World in Texas, where tourists can peruse his past, from gold discs to his children's baby shoes. Both his ranch and his beloved golf course were purchased by friends and returned to him after negotiations with the taxman were complete. It was touch and go, however, and for a while he stopped writing and touring altogether. [...] But the real reason why his songs are now so remorselessly dark occurred on Christmas Eve, 1991, when his son Billy, a longtime alcoholic, committed suicide. [...]

    These days, Willie Nelson seems to have mellowed to a point of Zen-like calm. Or maybe he has simply smoked himself on to a whole other plane. A longtime pot-head, Nelson was invited to Washington by President Jimmy Carter [and] later confessed to having smoked a joint on the White House roof. In person, he has a distant yet intimate expression that seems to carry him, unscathed, through the marathon meet-and-greet sessions that he undergoes with his fans after every show. Somehow, he's a total stoner and a consummate professional at the same time. (Sean O'Hagan, Observer, 31 May)

    For Willie Nelson see also Nelson, Willie / Shrake, Bud, I didn't come here and I ain't leaving (Macmillan, London 1988)

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