• Say It Ain't So, Joe

    Text, music & lyrics by Murray Head

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    As promised (see Related articles), a year later almost to the day, here is the famous hit by Murray Head everybody's heard of (at least in France). No coincidence either if I'm reposting this on the eve of the Mad Joker's inauguration. I wonder how Murray feels now since Brexit, he who claims that he has his “right leg in France, [his] left leg in Britain, and [his] balls in the Channel”. Altogether, he may certainly end up as a Legless Pooch but at least no eunuch (I know, I know, this is a lousy joke). A very appropriate song. As a bonus, there's also the great alternative version recorded by Roger Daltrey on his first solo album back in 1977. Almost a Who cover since (both deceased) bandmates John Entwistle (bass) and Keith Moon (drums) are also featured. Incidentally, featured guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (Wings) is also deceased. A ghost band you might say.

    Ey@el

    Say it ain't so, Joe please, say it ain't so.
    That's not what I wanna hear, Joe,
    Ain't I got a right to know?
    Say it ain't so, Joe please, say it ain't so.
    I'm sure they telling us lies Joe,
    Please tell us it ain't so.

    They told us our hero
    Has played his trump card,
    He doesn't know how to go on.
    We're clinging to his charm
    And determined smile,
    But the good old days have gone.

    The image and the empire may be failing apart,
    The money has gotten scarce.
    One man's word held the country together,
    But the truth is getting fierce.

    Say it ain't so, Joe please, say it ain't so.
    We pinned our hope on you Joe,
    And they're ruining our show.

    (Oooh babies)
    Don't you think we're gonna get burned?
    (Oooh babies)
    Don't you think we're gonna to get turned?
    We're gonna get burned...
    We're gonna get learned...
    Where going to get turned...
    Where going to get burned...
    Where going to get burned...
    Oooh learned...
    Turned...
    Burned...
    Oooh burned
    Yeah...

    Say it ain't so, Joe please, say it ain't so.
    That's not what I wanna hear, Joe,
    Ain't I got a right to know?
    Say it ain't so, Joe please, say it ain't so.
    I'm sure they telling us lies Joe,
    Please tell us it ain't so.

    They told us our hero
    Has played his trump card,
    He doesn't know how to go on.
    We're clinging to his charm
    And determined smile,
    But the good old days have gone.

    Say it ain't so, Joe please, say it ain't so.
    I'm sure they telling us lies, Joe,
    Please tell us it ain't so.

    © Murray Head, 1975

    About this song

    "Say It Ain't So, Joe" was provoked by a seventies documentary on Richard Nixon prior to his resignation. The presenter was asking the editor of a small town newspaper outside Washington, how, in the face of conclusive evidence and proof, his readers could still show such undying support for the president they elected. The editor likens the situation to a scandal in the twenties, when Joe Jackson, the famous baseball player, was rumoured to have taken a bribe to sink his team in the final of the World series. His fans hung around the stadium chanting “Say it ain't so Joe”.

    The song is about heroes and their “Clay feet”. It is also a plea from myself to the kind of “Joe Public” who in fear of losing face, refuse to relinquish their faith in a fallen idol.

    The song is on an album, which has sold over a million copies and was produced by Paul Samwell-Smith, who recently decided to re-record the song. Shortly afterwards I was watching another documentary on the O.J. Simpson case and they showed a note pinned to his gate on which was written “Say it ain't so Joe”. Two days later a friend, just returned from L.A., rang me to tell me they'd seen placards with that same old phrase. The occasion seemed apt for a re-release.


    ~ Murray Head (1994)

    Alternative Version by The Who (minus one)

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