Sunday, November 16, 2014

Danny O'Keefe, "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" (1972)

Sept. 23, 1972, #9

Spokane native Danny O'Keefe always knew he had a winner with this song. He recorded it in 1967, though that version was never released, and then he gave it away to a band called the Bards, from Moses Lake, Washington. Then he recorded it again for his first album, and then he recorded it one more time for his second album, and that's the version that finally creased the airwaves. It came out at going-back-to-school time for me in my senior year of high school, and I loved to hear it come sidling in on the radio as I drove around. So acutely aware of the passage of time, the Faulknerian unceasingness of it, so full of sadness. "You know my heart keeps tellin' me," the singer bleats, "you're not a kid at 33." No, you're not a kid at 33, I know that feeling too, but I didn't feel that much like a kid at 17 either, so I identified. Its burden is the well-worn burden of convention and expectation. The singer is not where he is supposed to be in life, he knows that well, nearly as well as he knows that where he's supposed to be is not where he wants to be. That endless dilemma, because also he doesn't exactly know where he wants to be either. On the road, pickin' a guitar, sitting soft at a sunset—those are the things he wants, although unfortunately "Everybody's gone away / Said they're movin' to LA." And furthermore, the hard truths of life just now really seem to be settling in: "Some gotta win, some gotta lose." A pause to let that sink in. "Good Time Charlie's got the blues." It's almost funny, if you think of it as ruminating third-person braggadocio, but the mood of the song effectively throws sand all over that and everything, except further delicious wistful sadness.


  1. Jeff I really like your write up here on "GOOD TIME CHARLIES GOT THE BLUES" I wasn't aware of the group "THE BARDS" until I read your post.. So I went and found their version of the "GOOD TIME CHARLIES GOT THE BLUES" on YouTube. I was wondering if the "Bards" version Charted??

  2. Thanks Bennie! I don't believe the Bards ever got their version to the charts.