One for the Count – Green on Red

This is for Count Druncula…

The Paisley Underground was pretty influential on what’s come to be known as alt-country and at the fringes of it was a band called Green on Red, who – like so many great US acts – were very successful here and in Europe but less so in Usania.

Green on Red weren’t quite as obviously country-influenced as their contemporaries like True West although they did get more country-inclined as their career drew to a close.

Anyway, for a while Green on Red – fronted by the slightly crazed Dan Stuart – made a few OKish albums, but then they got a new guitarist called Chuck Prophet who seemed to ignite something in the band that had been there for a while but not really come to the fore – a certain stoned and world-weary, almost suicidally dark, mood that was the perfect medium for Stuart’s vocals and Prophet’s guitar working together but in total contrast.

Stuart and Prophet made a few Green on Red albums, of which Here Come the Snakes, This Time Around and Scapegoats were the best and contain a mixture of sensitive but death-obsessed love songs and ballads and some really quite angry rockers which often sound ‘up’ but on closer examination appear to have been written after a handful of downers.

And bleak?

It’s three in the morning I can’t get to sleep
I know I’m in trouble, I’m in trouble deep oh no, oh no
The bankers have taken the Chevy away
It’s the only thing left around here anyway except you, except you
I can’t understand all of the things that I put you through

I hear a noise but it ain’t your car
You don’t complain ’bout the job at the bar anymore, anymore
You gave a vow to stay by my side
You were 14 when I made you my bride forever, amen
Don’t you know babe I would do it all over again

Good patient woman, you won’t have to wait for me anymore

Looking at pictures of you on the wall
Cutting the cake we were having a ball, that Sunday, way back when
We never had children as hard as we tried
Lately at night I hear you crying softly, alone in the dark
Dreaming of laughing and playing with kids in the park

Good patient woman, you won’t have to wait for me anymore

The sun is arisin’, I’m cleaning my gun,
This nightmare ain’t over I hope you had fun oh darling, my sweet little woman
Nothing’s forever but I got my doubts
I’m going upstairs, I’m gonna find out what’s waiting, for me now
Baby don’t miss me I was no good for you anyhow
Baby don’t miss me I was no good for you anyhow

Bleak doesn’t begin to describe some of their lyrics.

File under: Proto-Alt-Country.

Here’s a clip from the latter days of the band’s heyday.

London 1992, the Town & Country Club and Green on Red.

4 Responses

  1. Very nice. Oddly enough, it’s a band that’s been on my radar for at least two years that I just haven’t gotten round to following up on, so thanks for the nudge and the writeup. The consensus (read: 3 minutes on google) appears to be that Here Come the Snakes was their finest hour so I shall start with that.

    I’ve been listening to _way_ to much jazz and funk lately, but I did enjoy Mark Olson & Gary Louris’ Ready for the Flood – not quite up to their Jayhawks heyday, but it’s got lovely harmonies and some really pretty moments. I saw them in London a couple of months back – which was a treat cos they’d all but split up when I first discovered them.

  2. Snakes is a fantastic album. I’d have to agree that it’s their best.
    The two after that were a bit smoother and lost a bit of the band’s original sound that Prophet seemed to take to so well.
    Chuck’s later solo stuff is good but I always want Stuart’s voice to suddenly appear.

  3. So…Count…jazz and funk?
    What are you into?
    Give me an idea and I’ll see what I can surprise you with.

  4. Apologies for the late reply – very rude but I’ve been suffering internet fatigue for a couple of days. 🙂

    Funkwise, I’d say the usual suspects sans JB (genius though he was, not really for me), The Meters, in particular, and Sly. Others include Cymande, Mandrill, Stanton Moore, Lefites Soul Connection. It’s one of many genres (including alt-country) of which my knowledge is but a fledgling, but my education has been incredibly rewarding.

    Ditto jazz, though I have a leaning towards pre-ragtime like Django and also been listening to a lot of Sidney Bechet. So much to learn, so little time alas.

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