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CHESS 1517; AUGUST 1952



No, I’ve never heard this saying uttered before either.

No, like most of you I don’t have any idea what it means.

No, I’m not expecting to have those questions answered within the course of the song any more than you are, that’s be too much to ask I suppose, but then again stranger things have happened.


Spread The News Around
Human beings are weird.

That’s not news of course, but the more you look for ways in which they’re weird the more you find new evidence to support this theory.

Take decorations for instance.

The animal kingdom as a whole is largely about basic survival along with some sense of personal comfort. A bird’s nest doesn’t look very inviting to you or me, certainly not where we’d want to go to sleep, but considering what little they have to work with their nests make a lot of sense.

A rabbit den is just a hole in the ground to most of us, but it’s effective in keeping the residents reasonably warm, dry and safe and so they don’t need much more to be content… unless they’re Bugs Bunny I guess.

But human beings have long moved past simply building homes for practical purposes and constantly seek to have their dwellings reflect their personality, their tastes and their interests in some way… and that way is largely through decorating them with all sorts of worthless junk that doesn’t seem to serve much purpose.

Do you really need pictures on the wall? Cut flowers in a vase on the table? Patterned rugs and color coordinated furniture? Of course not, they’re purely for visual appeal, not utilitarian function. Yet we all have them in some form or fashion.

The more eccentric of the species even go so far as to Decorate The Counter, which seems to contradict the primary reason for having a counter in the first place, which is to pile up stuff you don’t want to throw away, but aren’t currently using.

Is that what Rufus Thomas is singing about here? A temporary landing spot for mail, keys and a wallet? If that’s his idea of decorating maybe I was too harsh on saying it served no valid purpose, but if he means something else then I for one think he’s taking the artful arrangement of cheap knick-knacks a bit too far.


Now Here’s What You Do
Right away we learn one thing anyway… this isn’t a guide for shopping at Pottery Barn.

Not exactly anyway.

Instead this is basically an advertisement for spending money.

Maybe Thomas is working at some antique store or upscale home furnishing retailer for all we know, but my guess is he’s tending bar or maybe overseeing some juke joint where booze isn’t the only thing they accept cash for.

In other words, he’s trying to shame you so that you’ll “Dig down in that pocket, pull the green stuff out and Decorate The Counteror turn yourself around”.

Well, at least he’s upfront about his expectations for us if we choose to enter his establishment.

Since this is rock ‘n’ roll we can at least be pretty certain we’ll get our money’s worth when it comes to the goods we’re buying.

Sure enough the band is bouncing along with admirable determination, not giving us anything too raucous, but also not taking it too easy. The tenor sax solo is where they earn that money, with Willie Wilkes setting a deep churning groove to get the party jumping. Rufus reappears in the midst of this and delivers a spoken ad-lib asking, “What you selling Richard?” at which point Richard Sanders takes over on baritone, a horn not as adept at melodic innovation but which hammers home the slightly erotic nature of the premise aided by a wild cry of ecstasy by Thomas.

The rest of the narrative merely repeats, or adds slight variations to, the original command which is basically telling everybody within earshot to loosen up, get down and put out… in more ways than one.

At the end of the night nothing much has been accomplished, no new musical territory has been explored and you’ll likely walk away with far less than you walked in with – other than those of you acquiring V.D. through some quick tryst in the dark corners of the club – but that’s not how you keep tabs on your enjoyment in a place like this.

There are no receipts you’ll be given to hand over to your accountant… no bill of goods you can put in a ledger… and no tacky souvenirs that you’ll put on your own counter back home, but even if the pink elephants flying around your head vanish before morning and the faint smile on your face as you pass out disappears soon after leaving nothing but drool and bile hanging from your lip, that’s not to say you haven’t purchased something worthwhile after all.


Spend A Little Moolah
So you might think that if we’re telling you this is a good buy, then it must be a really good record, one that everybody should seek out and enjoy.

Not so.

If after more than 2,100 reviews it hasn’t become evident yet, let me remind you that the grades handed out here adhere to one overriding principle… ascertaining what’s average for its time and place.

Average is what you expect to get out of a record.

Think of it like buying anything else… say a spice rack or colored glass jars to put on your counter to keep with the ancillary theme here. What do you want from them? Just good value. That’s it. To get what you paid for, nothing more.

Decorate Your Counter gives you that. A decent song fronted by an enthusiastic singer with a fairly tight band behind him playing a catchy tune that contains little surprises but no real flaws.

Yeah, they’re asking a lot for it in the course of the lyrics perhaps, so maybe you would want something a little more life-altering out of it if you really thought it over. But fun doesn’t come cheap and the 89 cents for this record is the current going rate for a few minutes of musical enjoyment, so don’t complain.

Consider it money well spent.


(Visit the Artist page of Rufus Thomas for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)