Music is the soundtrack to our lives. And on Christmas Day 2012, four days after the world was supposed to end, GuysNation columnist Bryan Lienesch was given the book ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’. As he flipped through it, an idea dawned on him right then and there: he would attempt to knock all 1,001 albums off his list. Not just before he dies, but as fast as life would allow.
This is the Bucket Beats List.
When George Jones passed away on Friday, two thoughts immediately occurred to me. One, well, that’s a shame. And, two, surely there must be a George Jones album on this list.
Of course there was, and 1974’s The Grand Tour is a half-hour roundhouse kick to the heart. Clearly affected by his soon-to-be-over marriage to Tammy Wynette, The Grand Tour comes across as an autopsy of everything that is wrong in Jones’ love life at the time. And he doesn’t shy away from exploring EVERY dark corner.
There’s the domestic turmoil of the album’s titular track, the defeatist tones in ‘Pass Me By (If You’re Only Passing Through)’, the pessimism of ‘She’ll Love the One She’s With’, the possessiveness and adultery in ‘borrowed angel’, the naivety of ‘She Told Me So’, and the melancholy surrender of ‘Who Will I Be Loving Now’. Even the record’s final track, ‘Our Private Life’, which was written jointly by Jones and Wynette, is a sarcastic ballad for those revel in celebrity gossip. Frankly, it’s sweetest sounding “f— off” you’ll ever hear.
Only ‘The Weatherman’, positioned smack dab in the middle of the album, provides a respite to the despair spread throughout. But even that song acknowledges the darkness of the times in his personal life.
Considering Jones actually only had a hand in writing one of the songs, one could view ‘The Grand Tour’ as Jones’ own self-medicating musical therapy. Instead of being an angst-filled teenager listening to downer music in his bedroom, Jones plays it and sings on his way to being dubbed the grandfather of country.
‘The Grand Tour’ just goes to show that heartbreak and misery was a sustainable inspiration for music long before the likes of Adele and Taylor Swift came along and seemed to make it wildly popular.
The irony of the album is, as he sings about apparently hitting rock bottom in his love life, Jones was very quickly spiraling towards that point in the other aspects of his life. By the release of ‘The Grand Tour’, his alcoholism was in full-swing (there are repeated incidents of him riding his lawn mower to the nearest bar or liquor store after multiple wives came up with the idea of hiding the car keys) and, unfortunately, his manager had introduced him to Cocaine in an effort to counteract the effects of his heavy drinking.
While one can only look back and shake their head (including Jones, who often joked about and parodied his lawn mower ordeals), you have to wonder if we would have been given ‘The Grand Tour’ without it.
What if he walked a straight line and his life with Tammy Wynette worked out? What if they moved to suburbia, lived happily ever after, and left Jones only to sing about, say, the politics of the PTA?
Considering he did get clean and lived a life long enough to where most of us would be satisfied, I think we can discretely admit that were glad Jones hit those bumps in life. After all, everything worked out in the end.
Even John Deere got one hell of an ad campaign.
3. Borrowed Angel
2. The Grand Tour
1. Our Private Life
Least Favorite Tracks?
3. She Told Me So
2. Mary Don’t Go ‘Round
Do you really need to listen to this album before you die?
Sure, why not? Just don’t get as close to there as Jones once did!
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for social media shenanigans!