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PEACOCK 1576, JULY 1951



Having just gotten finished excoriating the troubling lyrics of both sides of the last single we reviewed, we have another record where the content may raise some eyebrows on first listen.

But while it’s certainly possible to take this story wrong and find all sorts of questionable activities being alluded to, the difference is Gatemouth Brown has a point to his suggestive lines and that point is humor.

Suddenly what might be objectionable if played straight winds up being his used against him for laughs and thus takes the onus off any charges of indecency you might’ve been ready to throw at him.


Point Your Pistol The Other Way
Just what you need… a writing lesson. I know, you didn’t expect to go to class today, you just wanted to read about an old record, but this is central to the topic at hand and will save you four years and six figures compared to getting a creative writing degree at college.

The subject of this story finds Gatemouth Brown encountering a flirtatious girl, responding to her coming onto him in a manner that she presumably wants, only to have her regular guy find them in flagrante delicto and the fella is perturbed enough to pull a gun on him and leave Gate scrambling to get out with his life, having already sacrificed his dignity in the ordeal.

We can write this scenario in a few different contexts and while the particulars will remain unchanged, the impression it gives will be radically different in each.

The first is to simply report on it like a newspaper would – who, what, where, when – letting the events paint the picture. If we’re crime reporters and charges have been filed the writer has the (unfortunate tendency) to frame it from the police perspective, thereby presuming guilt. If it was merely a dispute that resulted in an argument with no criminal charges, or if it were a civil suit in court being reported on, then both Brown’s side and the boyfriend’s side would more or less be presented without comment… sort of a twisted human interest story.

In those scenarios the problematic behavior of Brown might be pretty self-incriminating though because it’d be taken at face value and that includes him talking about “tying her down” in bed and then in his own defense of his actions he’d say she deserved it because she was “acting 16”, raising all sorts of other questions including the possibility of statutory rape.

But songs are rarely written as if they were going to be in the Houston Chronicle.

We could also write about it like it was a short-story and have Brown bragging about this encounter to his buddies later on. Maybe he got off the hook and the boyfriend didn’t shoot him, or maybe the guy missed when he took a potshot at him and now Gate is at the corner bar telling it to boost his reputation and get some laughs. In this scenario we’ll play up the humor even if we don’t change a single thing about the events themselves.

But Brown’s writing She Winked Her Eye as a song and so it’s got a shorter arc and leads to a resolution that offers a moral to the story, or at the very least a way to wrap it up in ironic fashion, thereby allowing it to get away with the same details that in those other writing styles would be far more unsettling.


That’s Why I Played Around
The higher pitched horns that open the record are fairly noncommittal when it comes to passing judgment on what is to follow, but when the lower register horns chime in briefly you get the sense that they’re in on the joke because their presence lightens the mood ever so much, thereby setting you up for the wild narrative which finds Brown minding his business when a hot girl makes a pass at him.

That’s where the humor has to start to make this palatable and having him tell you everything that followed happened simply because She Winked Her Eye lets you know that this isn’t something to be taken all that seriously.

The prancing horns and twitchy piano behind Gate’s vocals further reduces your potential outrage when he suggests that any girl this beautiful who was coming on so aggressively to a stranger like some teenage flirt in math class deserved to be essentially turned into a sex slave.

I know, we’re on thin ice here, but stick with him a little longer, because after the instrumental break that finds the piano ramping up the intensity with a strong left and a playful right that indicate his excitement over this opportunity, followed by Brown’s own guitar drawing things out, almost as if it were musically describing him undressing, we get right into the confrontation itself that is at the heart of the story.

There’s no further set up, no scene where the disgruntled boyfriend barges in, but instead when the musical interlude ends he’s already there, already has his gun cocked and pointed at our protagonist and Gate is already begging for mercy, probably tangled in his own suspenders as he tried to… umm… “hide the evidence of his intentions” shall we say.

The way in which Brown attempts to explain the situation with a straight face while staring down the barrel of a gun is so ludicrous that it’s funny…

”She winked her eye and said she needed fun/If you don’t believe me, mister, let me grab my hat and run”.

He must’ve convinced the guy because he’s alive to tell us about it and my guess is based on the ease in which he and this girl ended up in the sack this is not her first time she’s winked at someone and surely not the first time that her boyfriend discovered her overactive eye so to speak.


One You Want To See
Now – assuming you read this before listening to the song – do you want to be let in on the genius of Brown’s record purely from a writing perspective?

Though obviously he DID write it as a song, setting it to music and playing and singing it with evident skill, he actually approached it like a short story, because the coda to She Winked Her Eye does the very thing we explained earlier – place him in the midst of telling this wild tale to other people, not for laughs however and not in a bar, but rather at a train station where he’s about to jump on the outward bound Cannonball to get away from the angry boyfriend and his winking lady friend.

That’s the kind of twist ending – not so much in plot, though it does add a more satisfying resolution to things, but rather in terms of storytelling ability – that we’re always going to find rewarding.

The true lesson learned in this should be that there are plenty of ways to to cover unsavory subjects without sugarcoating them and without alleviating the “characters” in a song of their amoral behavior so as not to offend listeners.

In this song Gate – and the girl in question – were clearly both in the wrong. He may have even crossed a few lines that the cheating girl didn’t sanction (though by the sound of it, I’m guessing she was game for whatever kink was going down), but in the end what leaves the greatest impression on you isn’t the tawdry behavior, but rather the comically harrowing repercussions and how the guilty one is left to slip out of town with his tail between his legs.

All of which leads me to believe that somewhere along the line Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown had clearly learned another important lesson about creative writing… always know your ending before you start.


(Visit the Artist page of Gatemouth Brown for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)