Monday, July 11, 2011

"Dry Goods"

Song Title: "She's Got Good Dry Goods"
Artist: Little Buddy Doyle
Search Term: "Dry Goods"

1930s Memphis bluesman Little Buddy Doyle was one of many to sneak tales of fornication into ditties that were squeaky clean on their surface, and apparently this song was secretly risque enough to earn it a place on the 2009 compilation Vintage Songs of Sex, Drugs & Cigarettes. I don't quite get it. The sense of cheeky ribaldry evident in Doyle's voice doesn't come through lyrically at all. Yes, the vocals are often indecipherable because the recording is so murky, but those lines that surmount the technical limitations strike me as either so tame or so veiled that it would be quite a stretch for anyone to hear them as scandalous. Sure, filtered through a perverted enough mind, even lyrically chaste songs like the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend Some Time Together" or Britney Spears's "If U See Amy" could be interpreted as heart-shaped hot tubs frothing with adult themes and adult situations, but even so, "dry goods" is about the most boringly unsexy code word for sex imaginable.

Musically speaking, there's not much distinctive here, but I imagine fans of early blues take as a given that there will be a certain melodic familiarity to recordings like this, and so may not mind. Personally, I can't avoid comparing it to "Rock Around the Clock," whose songwriters would closely paraphrase this and a number of other songs more than a decade later. I know it's unfair to knock "She's Got Good Dry Goods" based on the ubiquity of one of its successors, since that association is no more Doyle's fault than is the fact that his stage name makes me think of Gilligan's Island, but no matter how many times I try to approach the song with an open mind, the exuberant harmonica is the only element that stands out for me as something special. The rest just feels like a rote retelling of a dirty joke that doesn't tickle me any more now than it did the first dozen times I heard it.

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