24 June 2011

My Girl, aka "Where Did You Sleep Last Night"

This is the first song I learned to sing and play on guitar at the same time, so it's fitting that it be the first song I post. The file size is a little hefty—5.3 megs, so I have no idea how it will load and play for you. Hopefully, it won't be too bad. I have put the link here so it can load while you read on.

the-ghost-train-sm.jpg

(Here's a Direct Link for Flash disabled devices, like iPhones.)

A Little History

Kurt Cobain made this song famous with Nirvana's MTV Live [edit, 25 June, That should have been MTV Unplugged] version, and he credited the Meat Puppets,[edit 25 June, No, he didn't, my mistake. He credits Leadbelly] but it's a much, much older song than that. Dolly Parton said it was one of those songs that everybody knew and everybody played, so it was just a part of growing up. It's at least as old as the American Civil War, and there are quite a few variations. For example, one version has "Black Girl" instead of "My Girl." You will also see this song titled "In the Pines." It is definitely a train song, and it's a ghost song. In my version, I've podged (I think I made that word up) together bits and pieces of different stanzas, and, as a slight filip, added a couple of resolving lyrics at the end.

That sort of thing is very much in the folk tradition.

A Couple More Points

You will hear in the lyrics something called a "driving wheel." That's a big gear in a train engine. In older trains, it was exposed, and it was dangerous to be near. But the main thrust of this song is that there are two voices, a man and a woman, and they talk to each other. Sometimes, the man is sad, other times he is jealous and angry.

What has happened is that the woman is homeless, and she has taken to sleeping in the woods. It is possible she has been forced to do things a woman would not want to do in order to survive, for she has lost her man, and there was no public assistance program back in the day. In another version, there are references to a lost watch, and these refer to lost time. There are always eerie train references, and occasionally, snippets of these lyrics appear in chain gang songs. Like I said, I have podged together different versions, but there is continuity and resolution.

One final note.

I never did "learn the chords." I rarely do. I just come up with my own progressions based on melodies. In this version, I've tried to simulate the sound of trains, so it has this repetitive hammering. I think this the first recording where I used a little iPhone app called "Easy Beats" to tap out a percussion track. There are little random squeaks and thumps and creaks in the first mix, but they kinda disappeared in the final mix down. In addition to acoustic guitar, I also play the bass in this. Factually, I'm not much of a musician or a singer. For me, it's as Tchaikovsky said, (more or less) "The purpose of music is to express the feelings of the soul."

Anyhow, I am curious to see how this version appears on your end. I have some other music to put up. This is my first stab at posting music. Hopefully, you won't find it too awful.

4 comments:

Yandie, Goddess of Pickles. said...

I've always known it as "Where did you sleep last night?" I recall that on the MTV unplugged album Kurt credits it to Leadbelly (Plateau, Lake of Fire and one other song that I don't remember were credited to the Meat Puppets, who contributed to the performance).

The MTV unplugged album was one of my staples when I was younger, so I've got most of it off by heart lol

Yandie, Goddess of Pickles. said...

That being said, it sounds good... you've got a nice voice.

Richard G. Crockett said...

Yeah, Yandie, you're totally right. That's what Kurt called it. I probably should have used that title. More people would have recognized it. There's this one point where he says, "That was the Meat Puppets," so he was referring to the contribution to the performance? I always thought that was odd, so thanks.

And it was MTV Unplugged, like you said, not MTV Live. I actually have the sheet music sitting a few feet away. Should looked at it! (I got the sheet music 'cause I couldn't understand wtf Kurt was saying.) It's my favorite Nirvana performance.

That being said, thanks!

Richard G. Crockett said...

I did a little editing to include Yandie's corrections, and I changed the title from "My Girl: An Old Song" to the current one.

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