Heard on the radio yesterday: An old norteño version of the old, old Hank Thompson hit “Wild Side of Life.” “Mi Nueva Casa,” I learn from musica.com, was a 1982 hit for Los Invasores de Nuevo León, boosting them to their first gold record. That is totally fitting in a number of ways, one being that Texas (Hank’s home state) and Nuevo León are neighbors, and one being that “Wild Side of Life” has a tendency to spin off hits.
Western Swing pioneer Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys were Billboard’s top country and western band of the year for 14 years straight, 1951-1964. The tune behind “Wild Side” itself is “an old traditional English melody” on which the Southern hymn “Great Speckled Bird” was based, according to a biography of Roy Acuff. “GSB” was Acuff’s first radio hit and got him a recording contract in 1936. In 1952, “Wild Side of Life” stayed at No. 1 for nine weeks, newly fitted out with lyrics about a temptress who breaks up a man’s marriage and then leaves him to go back to her bar-room good-timing ways – its most famous line being, “I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels.” That inspired an answer song, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” the first country No. 1 by a solo female artist, which sold a million copies and launched Kitty Wells’ career. It put the blame back on men for cheatin’ and was considered so shocking that NBC and the Grand Ole Opry both banned it. Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter did a mashup of the two songs in 1981, which brings us neatly back around, chronologically speaking, to Los Invasores:
Hank sang (not wrote, but sang):
You wouldn’t read my letter if I wrote you
You asked me not to call you on the phone
But there’s something I’m wanting to tell you
So I wrote it in the words of this song
Los Invasores’ lyrics with my translation (which reads very stilted because I’m not translating for the feeling of it but literally the words themselves. Language major, sorry 🙂 I like to know what the original words were and then fill in the feeling):
Te escribi una carta y no me contestaste I wrote you a letter and you didn’t answer me
Fui a buscarte y ya cambiaste dirección I went to search for you and you’d already moved (lit., changed address)
Como tengo unas cosas que reclamarte As I have a couple things to complain to you about
me obligaste a que te cante esta canción You’ve obliged me to sing to you this song
The song goes on to talk about how he gave up his home to be with her and is pretty miserable where he’s living now, a place that features bottles, a jukebox and a neon sign. “Y una cualquiera es la que ocupa tu lugar” — and her place is taken by whatever lady is around.
Kitty’s entry in this tune’s history books:
If you have something stuck in your throat and need to upchuck quickly, or alternately to gain an immediate visceral understanding of the Nashville tendency to slap sappy strings and gooshy backup singers all over a defenseless song that caused musicians like Buck Owens to rebel with the “Bakersfield Sound,” etc., listen to this alternate version of Hank’s “Wild Side.”