Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Terry Lee Hale, "The Boys Are Waiting" (1988)


Terry Lee Hale is a singer/songwriter I recall scratching around the various edges of Seattle music in the late '80s—a track of his appeared on the 1988 Sub Pop 200 compilation, "Dead Is Dead," which is as fine an introduction to him as any. I happened to see a lot of him one way or another in the summer of 1989, at pick-me-up festivals and opening for bands around town. "The Boys Are Waiting" is the song I remember best. Probably the version I really want to hear is one of those performances, never recorded. I also knew it from a 1988 cassette-only release—Fools Like Me, I believe it was called. I don't seem to have that tape any longer and for all I know this 1993 version, which appeared on his first album for the Germany-based Normal label, is the same track, though I think it's at least been sweetened some, with the cello. It sounds pretty good anyway; it will do. Hale cultivated his own personal mythology, imparted in anecdotes from the stage: brave hard-working single parent chasing his music dream, putting one foot in front of the other, but not immune to the opportunities as they came for intoxicants and philandering. Thus, the dour anguish in this song is very real, and comes from places of personal experience. He knows he is complicit in his own anxiety. His attempts to set the context are what made it so memorable for me—a little of the tenor of that can be heard here when he gulps as an aside in momentary panic about the phone calls his 12-year-old daughter is starting to receive, "... and how deep their voices are." With the Walkabouts, Hale managed to transfer his entire base of operations from Seattle to Europe starting in the mid-'90s, so it has been a long time since I've seen him perform or indeed even followed him closely. But I still love this song a lot.

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