Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Houston Chicks" / Doug Sahm & The Tex Mex Trip

Eeyow. Just finished meeting a copy deadline on my next book, and I've got an hour here before I have to be somewhere else. Should I run to the gym and exercise, or should I do a blog post?

No contest.

I'm sorry that I haven't posted in a while, but my life has been clogged with crap lately, so many low-grade hassles coming at me from every direction that it's been impossible to think straight. I've been needing a shot of tequila 'n Tecate -- or, failing that, some tunes from the late great Doug Sahm.

Long ago I owned the Sir Douglas Quintet single "She's About a Mover," their biggest early hit and least typical track (some liner notes I just read referred to this as Sahm's turn at British Invasion pop, which probably explains why I loved it so much). Then a couple years ago, I got me a Sir Douglas Quintet album called Soul Jam that's a perfect marvel -- but completely different, which piqued my curiosity big-time. For some reason or other, though, I kept getting distracted and did not follow up properly. (Memo to self: Stop getting distracted.) So last week, who knows why, in the middle of all that crap-wading I decided just to download some Doug Sahm tracks and be done with it. I still can't figure out what his "typical" sound is, but who cares? The guy could do just about anything, and with snarky humor to boot. I think of him as a sort of cross between Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (for the stoner wit) and Joe "King" Carrasco (for the Mexicali dance hall energy). Add a dash of Joe Tex for the soul, and you've got Doug Sahm. What's not to love?

This track comes from a nifty little 1974 outing called Groover's Paradise, which saw Sahm teaming up with the rhythm section from Creedence Clearwater Revival. And yes, it's just as tasty as that sounds. Even though I didn't know about this album in 1974, listening to it sends me right back to those mellowed-out years, fumes and all. "Houston Chicks" is a lasciviously slow bluesy stroll with lots of organ and bass; it keeps circling around to a moaned "Whoa-o-o-o-o-o, Houston, Texas." In "California Girls" style, it begins by acknowledging "Love girls all over the country / Even met a few around the world," but you know already that the hometown girls are gonna win out.

"Worked the clubs in Galveston," he ruminates in verse two, "Couldn't have been more than 15 / When one of those boarding-house mothers / Said 'Little boy, come on down to Houston with me." "Boarding-house mother"? Yeah, um-hmm, I can see the flimsy chiffon wrapper she's wearing right now.

I hear this a song as a companion piece to "House of the Rising Sun" (the brilliant organ work helps -- who's playing here? Now I wish I had the physical album, damn it.) But whereas "Rising Sun" is saturated with warning and regret, "Houston Chicks" is like one long lazy stretch of sexual satisfaction. In the bridge, he rouses himself on one elbow to declare "Houston chicks / Get their kicks / Out of / Taking care, care, care / Of the man that they love," with long drawn-out pauses between phrases to give you plenty of time to read between the lines.

In the last verse, he sums it all up: "If I live my life over / Don't you know where I wanna be / Somewhere, somewhere, out on the outskirts of Houston / Houston girl take care of me." The band joins in to "whoa-o-o-o" away, the organ builds, and in the fade I can just see Doug stubbing out that post-coital cigarette, then sinking back into the pillows for another go-round.

Houston Chicks sample