Good Old Boys| Revisionist History podcast with Malcolm Gladwell E4/S4 (Transcript)
Good Old Boys
Episode 4| Season 4| Revisionist History
Length: 45 mins | Released: July 11, 2019
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This episode contains explicit language
Malcolm Gladwell: In the fall of 1974, the musician Randy Newman released an album called Good Old Boys. The most beautiful song on the record is the third song on the first side.
Malcolm Gladwell: Wait, can I prevail on you to just do a little bit of Marie?
Randy Newman: Sure.
Malcolm Gladwell: I love that song so much.
Randy Newman: Well, thank you very much.
Randy Newman: [singing] Looked like a princess
The night we met.
Malcolm Gladwell: My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You‚Äôre listening to Revisionist History, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood. This episode is about Randy Newman‚Äôs Good Old Boys, one of the most remarkable albums of its era. I listened to it for the first time years ago, but then I happened to listen to it again very recently and realized that Good Old Boys is not an album you can hear just once and hope to do it justice. Because it‚Äôs not just remarkable; it‚Äôs unsettling. I don‚Äôt think an album like this could be made today, and by the end of this episode, I suspect you‚Äôll agree with me.
Malcolm Gladwell: I decided to go to California, sit down with Randy Newman, and create a listener‚Äôs guide to one of the most perplexing works of music that I have ever encountered.
Randy Newman: [singing] I‚Äôm drunk right now, baby
But I‚Äôve got to be
I loved you the first time
I saw you
And I‚Äôll always love you, Marie
Malcolm Gladwell: Newman is in his 70s, still writing music. Tall, and slightly intimidating, he‚Äôs Hollywood royalty. His uncle Alfred was a composer who was nominated for an Academy Award 44 times, won 9 times. Newman has had a second career writing for the movies as well, like you‚Äôve got a friend in me for Toy Story. Newman is unusual among songwriters because he writes in character and the narrator of Good Old Boys is a creation of Newman‚Äôs. He‚Äôs called Johnny Cutler, a steelworker from Birmingham, Alabama, 30 years old.
Malcolm Gladwell: The song Marie is about Johnny Cutler coming home late after a night out with the boys and gazing, lovestruck, at his sleeping wife.
Randy Newman: I liked the idea, very much, about being inarticulate without‚Ä¶ That‚Äôs not the right word, inarticulate, but being unable to have the words unless you drank something. You know, I can‚Äôt say this to you. And maybe to lack the ability to say those kind of words.
Malcolm Gladwell: But he‚Äôs‚Ä¶ the fact that he has been drinking, and you realize he can only say what he‚Äôs saying because he‚Äôs drunk and because she‚Äôs asleep.
Randy Newman: Yeah.
Malcolm Gladwell: Right? But that makes me‚Ä¶ Humanizes him even more. I sort of feel so sorry for him.
Randy Newman: He certainly loves her. I mean, it would seem that that isn‚Äôt drink; but it might be.
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