May 122012

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.


[audio:|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:|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.

  19 Responses to “LONDON HOMESICK BLUES”

  1. I love this song, man. The music is obviously not metal, but anyone who has ever felt out of place and trapped in their surroundings and wishing like hell to be back where they feel alright….that’s some metal-worthy emotional anguish if you ask me.
    You need some sunshine and dry land for awhile, brother- HAHAHAHAHA. Get away from the mold and moss and constant dripping water for awhile and you’ll be okay.
    Jerry Jeff is the man ain’t he? I love all his stuff. His wry, drunken vocal delivery is very soothing to me.
    Nice post, takes some balls to put this tune up on a metal blog called No Clean Singing…subscribed, thanks for your good work.

    • Thanks — I’m glad you liked this, and it sounds like you’re already a Jerry Jeff fan. Like everyone where I am now, the dark, cold, wet winters do get to be too much after a while . . . but today the weather is spectacular, and on days like this, I don’t think I’d rather be anywhere else.

  2. yeap gotta love this song!!!!

  3. Hey Islander, as a native Austinite, are you familiar with/a fan of Ian Moore, by any chance? He’s amazing.

  4. Back in the day, the wife and I took a road trip to Galveston Island… the whole trip, the only armadillo that I saw was the one that flashed briefly in my headlights before I ran it over. I felt kinda bad for it.

  5. I’m vaguely reminded of Eleven Hundred Springs, which is a great Texan country band.

  6. I can’t say I’ve ever felt really homesick, I mean, I might wanna go home because I’m tired of sitting in a car, or I’ve had a long day in another state at like a vacation or something, but nothing like moving somewhere distant and yearning to be where I grew up. That’s probably because I rarely get out of this state, even into the surrounding ones. The furthest I’ve ever gone from Delaware was to Georgia, in order to pick up my doberman.

    As far as country music goes, I’m not a huge fan of it, I like some Johnny Cash, and admittedly Rascal Flatts is rather enjoyable, especially compared to a lot of the other country I may hear on the radio. However, my dad was a country/bluegrass musician. He played with Everett Lilly and The Lilly Mountaineers if I’m not mistaken. He also played in band called Cleer Creek Crossin’ and I think he may play with a band called The Girl Singer now. Based on what I’ve heard, he’s an amazing guitarist, but I’ve never seen how far his abilities can be pushed. In fact I think I’ve only ever seen one recording of his and it was recorded from a distance.

  7. Just recently took Viva Terlingua(on vinyl) out of the Downtown Austin Library,it was in perfect condition!!! HaHa. Been listening to a lot of funeral doom/death and country….weird,maybe. I don’t know. The first Billy Joe Shaver/Guy Clarks’ first 2 records, of course Townes(all those make me think of Austin),have you ever watched Heart Worn Highways???? Than the doom-Mournful Congregation/Cathedral/Worship,etc…Dug your article,still haven’t seen a live Armadillo.

    • I wouldn’t have naturally paired up this kind of country with funeral doom and death, but I ain’t knocking it til I’ve tried it. Besides, I think this kind of country might work a lot better than most of the popular horseshit coming out of Nashville these days.

      I’m with you on Billy Joe and Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. I’d add mention of Steven Fromholz and Jimmy Dale Gilmore. And if you really want to get obscure, I’d mention Frummox — a project by Fromholtz and Dan McCrimmon. They put out one and only one album “Here To There”, which includes some important guests, and it’s purely awesome. I lost my tape of that album a while ago and have been meaning to see if I could track down another copy some way.

      I’ve never watched Heart Worn Highway. Sounds like I should.

  8. The British v. American jokes in the lyrics are very funny, especially the one about the girl “on the third floor.” (You need to know that the British count the floors differently.) This song should be in the Guinness book of world records: I personally have heard a band repeat the great chorus about 30 times, and there are reports of bands doing over 100 iterations of it.

    • Ah, it’s great to see this comment come out of the blue on a post that’s more than 9 years old — for a song that will never get old. I’d love to hear a band repeat the chorus 30 (or 100) times.

  9. I’ve always been curious about his purpose in going to Marble Arch station. It’s got something to do with taking a chance – is he gambling? Busking to get the fare home?

    Great song. For me it was the Austin City Limits theme as a kid.

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