Even though I live in the Pacific Northwest, I’m not a native of the region. The place where I was born and lived until I finished high school is Austin, Texas. My mother and brother still live there, and I go back there to visit a couple times a year. I’ve traveled around a fair amount, and if I could reverse time and have my choice of places to call my hometown, I’d still pick Austin.
In early April, I flew back to Texas to be at the wedding of a young woman I’ve known forever. The ceremony was performed by a good friend of mine (and hers) who got some kind of on-line minister’s license to perform lawful marriages in the State of Texas. The wedding took place outside at a farm in Brenham, Texas (which is about halfway between Houston and Austin). There were a couple hundred people in attendance on a beautiful afternoon. After the wedding, we partied hard. There was plentiful barbeque and beer and an ass-kicking band who seemed capable of playing any kind of music you could want, and playing it well . . . except for metal. But I had a fuckin’ good time anyway.
Somewhere around midnight, that band started playing a song I hadn’t heard since the Neolithic Era. There was a time when that song meant the world to me. When I first left Texas as a young idiot, I was homesick a lot, and that song reminded me of home . . . not the nasty, right-wing bastion that Texas has become in the minds of most people nowadays, but the tolerant, left-wing, dope-smoking, laid-back, open-hearted, music-loving place where I grew up.
The song was written by Gary P. Nunn. It was made famous (at least in Texas) through a live 1973 recording of the song by Jerry Jeff Walker and The Lost Gonzo Band, which appeared on an album called ¡Viva Terlingua! That whole album is chock full of win, or maybe it’s just chock full of nostalgia for a displaced Texan like myself. Gary P. Nunn was part of The Lost Gonzo Band when the album was recorded, and he, rather than Jerry Jeff, did the vocals on the song that’s the subject of this post. But I have a slight preference for Gary P.’s own recording of the song, so that’s the version I’m going to play for you right after the post.
The lyrics are awesome, so I’m including those, too — though my British friends may not find them so awesome. They’re about a Texas musician finding himself in London and missing Texas.
This is not metal — not even close — but the song has been on my mind since April (the chorus is still one of the catchiest things I’ve ever heard), I woke up thinking about it this morning, and so fuck it, I’m devoting this post to it.
For those of you who’ve never set foot in Texas, the references to the armadillo will be puzzling. In the Central Texas hill country, they’re plentiful. They’re nearly blind, completely harmless, and of course very weird looking. Somehow, long ago, they became a symbol for what I talked about earlier in the post — that tolerant, left-wing, dope-smoking, laid-back, open-hearted, music-loving, Austin state of mind. For a lot of people of a certain age who know Austin, that’s kind of what this song symbolizes, too.
“LONDON HOMESICK BLUES”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/16-London-Homesick-Blues-_-Home-With-the-Armadillo.mp3|titles=Gary P Nunn – London Homesick Blues]
Well, when you’re down on your luck,
and you ain’t got a buck,
in London you’re a goner.
Even London Bridge has fallen down,
and moved to Arizona,
now I know why.
And I’ll substantiate the rumor
that the English sense of humor
is drier than the Texas sand.
You can put up your dukes,
and you can bet your boots,
that I’m leavin’ just as fast as I can.
I wanna go home with the armadillo.
Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene.
The friendliest people and the prettiest women
you’ve ever seen.
Well it’s cold over here, and I swear,
I wish they’d turn the heat on.
And where in the world is that English girl,
I promised I would meet on the third floor.
And of the whole damn lot, the only friend I got,
is a smoke and a cheap guitar.
My mind keeps roamin’, my heart keeps longin’
to be home in a Texas bar.
Well, I decided that, I’d get my cowboy hat
and go down to Marble Arch Station.
‘Cause when a Texan fancies, he’ll take his chances,
and chances will be takin, now that’s for sure.
And them Limey eyes, they were eyein’ a prize,
that some people call manly footwear.
And they said you’re from down South,
and when you open your mouth,
you always seem to put your foot there.
Oh hell, I might as well play the Lost Gonzo Band’s version of the song, too. It’s slower, but it’s still awesome (at least for me).[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/09-London-Homesick-Blues.mp3|titles=The Lost Gonzo Band – London Homesick Blues]
P.S. That friend of mine who got married? She was marrying an Englishman. That may have had something to do with why this song was played. He and his family seemed to take it in good humor when the band launched into it. Of course, they were pretty well intoxicated by that point.