If all you know about Randy Newman is the Disney songs he’s done for the past 20 years, you’d be really surprised by his ’70s masterpiece albums, Sail Away and Good Ol’ Boys. They have a dark, mordant wit and an amazing ability to say something while meaning exactly the opposite. On first listen, everyone was appalled by “Rednecks” (“We’re rednecks, and we’re keeping the niggers down”) until they figured out that even though the narrator was a redneck, he was calling out his northern critics for their hypocrisy. It’s the same backward technique he later used in “Short People” (causing a lot of anger in the little person community until someone pointed out he meant the opposite) and “I Love LA,” which is one of the great anti-LA songs.
“A Wedding in Cherokee County,” from Good Ol’ Boys, isn’t quite that complicated. It’s a love song about a backwards, stupid girl (“Her papa was a midget, her mama was a whore/Her granddad was a newsboy till he was 84/What a slimy old bastard he was”), and how on their wedding night, the narrator can’t get it up. Very odd little song. All I can say is that I dated a girl for four months back in 1979 solely because she told me that this was her favorite song. I’m a sucker for women who know obscure little album tracks.