Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Do you still wonder why we got the generation gap?"

Jeannie C. Riley will forever be best known for her 1968 smash hit "Harper Valley P.T.A." A lesser track of hers is "The Generation Gap," the titular song from her 1970 album, the cover of which is a time-capsule image of Nashville playing catch-up to prevailing trends in popular culture and pop art. At the time Riley was fairly unique among commercial country female performers in her sex-pot image, and she played it to the hilt, rocking the modish bodysuits and dangerously short mini skirts:


On the back cover, she moves from lady-like sophistication to go-go boot sexiness:

Though Riley appeared confident in these poses, she was largely uncomfortable with the posturing, later claiming that her manager and publicist were behind the sexy persona. Later in the decade Riley became a born-again Christian and began singing and recording Gospel songs.

But not before she weighed in on the raging Generation Gap debate in this mild but fascinating twist number, a perfect blend of late-60s cultural excess as imagined by Music Row, country music's formal conservatism, and good 'ol crass cashing-in. The song was written by Charlie and Betty Craig with Jim Hayner, and though duly promoted the single did not perform well, peaking at 62 in the Billboard Country Charts and failing to cross over to Pop. (The uneven album, which features horns, some psychedelia-lite, and searching lyrics, reached 34.) Though not a hit, "The Generation Gap" endures as a fringed relic of country music's bemused response to the Counter Culture age.


Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah
Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah

When you see a little baby sittin' on his mama's lap
Well, it's just the beginnin' of a thing called the generation gap
It's not the difference of age now everybody's talking 'bout
It's all those no no's that make up the generation gap

Well, the grown ups go out now to parties and get stoned
But that's somethin' they won't talk about around the children at home
But they ain't foolin' anybody now 'cause the kids are gonna find it out
Just another reason for the thing called the generation gap

The generation gap is a mighty mighty big hole
You ain't gonna fill it up with all the lies being told
Wah, wah, wah, wah, you'd better clean your house
If you expect to narrow the generation gap

Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah
Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah

Daddy says that drinkin' is a sin that we'll have to pay for
Well, then what's that liquor bottle doin' in the dash of his car?
And who's the man that calls mama every time that daddy's out?
Now, do you still wonder, why we still have the generation gap?

The generation gap is a mighty mighty big hole
Now, do you still wonder why we got the generation gap?

Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah
Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah
Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah
Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah
Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah
Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah

~~

Note: I was hipped to this tune years ago by the great Hoodoo Gurus, who released a version in 1988 as a single. Dave Faulkner: "I changed a couple of lines to suit myself."

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