Monday, August 23, 2010

"Move It On Over" / Hank Williams

Just got back from a week of house-building in New Orleans -- well, I wasn't doing the work, but the teenagers I was supervising were: painting, hanging vinyl siding, mounting insulation, putting up dry wall, the whole nine yards. Working in close quarters (not to mention the steamy heat), the crew instinctively fell into a sort of construction ballet, constantly calling out things like "coming through!" and "heads up!" and "move over!" And every time I heard that "move over," this song launched in my head.

But could I get a singalong going? No way. None of the kids knew that song -- urban teenagers don't tend to listen to a lot of Hank Williams. I'd have done better with Christina Aguilera's "Move It" or, even better,'s "I Like To Move It" from the cartoon movie Madagascar.

Maybe if we'd had a singalong I'd have gotten it out of my system. Instead here I am, days later, still murmuring the dang thing over and over. Take a listen:

The premise is ridiculously simple. The guy's had a fight with his wife, and now he's sleeping -- literally -- in the doghouse. It's the family pooch he's singing to, as he's scrounging a bit of floor to lay down on. "Move over little dog, 'cos the big dog's moving in," he declares. In every verse he changes that up, though -- "move over skinny dog, 'cos the fat dog's moving in," or "move over, nice dog, 'cos a mad dog's moving in," and, saving the best for last, "move over, cold dog, 'cos the hot dog's movin' in." He changes the verb, too -- "scoot it on over," "slide it on over," "sweep it on over," et cetera -- mixing things up just enough to keep you on your toes.

In the alternating lines, we get his story. She's warned him before not to play around, but he just couldn't behave himself -- and now she's changed the locks. The jaunty tempo tells me he's hasn't really learned his lesson, either, though he seems purty sorry at the moment (a cold hard floor'll do that to you).

Like a lot of the great country songs, this one skates along the edge of comedy, but it's got a bead on real life as well. Because we all know this kind of happy-go-lucky guy, don't we? Sure, he's a feckless rake, but that cheerful tone clues you into how he gets all those women -- and why his girl will eventually take him back. After all, Hank Williams could have made this a mournful break-up song if he wanted to -- nobody could do mournful better than Hank Williams.

Instead we get a perfect comic marital cliche, with the rueful husband winding up sleeping on the couch. (Picture Cary Grant, glasses askew, in a rumpled plaid robe and slippers.) The wife with her arms crossed, hair in curlers. And he slinks out with his tail between his legs, looking guilty as hell. Not once does he protest his innocence, or declare his love for his mistress. Nope, he's cheating on her because that's what some men do. She'll forgive him, and then he'll do it again.

Infidelity's a big topic in country music, and always has been -- put it right up there with prison, drunkenness, and pick-up trucks. But let's not fool ourselves that country music fans are the only ones who know where this guy is coming from.


Uncle E said...

I've always been a fan of this version, and perhaps George Thorogood's version, which is a little less raw and a little more modern, would peak the "kids" interest. On second thought, probably not.

Holly A Hughes said...

George Thorogood modern? Oh, E, how you date yourself. (tee hee hee)