Song meaning: Let it all hang out – The Hombres
When at first I heard this song, I didn’t really think about the meaning of the song. But the more I listened to it, I wanted to know how the band came up with this nonsensical song.
I googled it and found this source:
Mark Prindle is a guy who interviewed Gary McEwen, the guitarist and songwriter of The Hombres.
The Hombres is a Memphis, TN Rock and Roll quartet that became famous during 1966-67 with their fluke single: Let it all hang out.
The song begins with Johnny Hunter (who played the drums) saying a line:
“I preach, my dear friends, you are about to receive on John Barleycorn, nicotine and the temptations of Eve…”
He got the line from some album.
Then BB Cunningham blows into a mike, the sound resembling a fart.
The song was a spoof on Bob Dylan. It was to out-Dylan Dylan.
You know, `cuz people’d say, “Why don’t you come up with something different?” And I thought, “Well, if DYLAN can get away with that crap, WE’LL do it. And it’ll be so nonsensical, NOBODY will be able to figure it out!” – McEwen.
The story behind the title:
So we were driving down the highway. We were doing about 80 miles an hour in a Cadillac with a trailer on the back. Which is always a lot of fun. It’s just constantly vibrating back and forth. And we’d reached a point – this was like right at dawn – I mean, we’re talking about when the coffee in your mouth has just really gone bad, you know, kinda bad breath. And you’re tired. You’re just fatigued. You’ve been traveling hours upon hours in the back seat. And all of a sudden – you know, Jerry’s doing the driving. And all of a sudden, he puts on the brakes and everybody leans forward Like “What in the world are ya doin’, man?” And Johnny says, “It’s a chicken wreck!” “It’s a what?” He says, “It’s a chicken wreck!” And I looked up over the seat, and there were dead chickens all over the road. Some truck that had been filled with a whole bunch of cages full of chickens had jack-knifed or did something. And he was all over the road. And there were dead chickens and there were live chickens and there were chickens on the barbed wire. And the live chickens were picking on the dead chickens. And all this is going on, and BB is sitting over there in the left rear, and he just kinda opens up the door and begins falling out the door. You know, just kinda like sliding right out. And he says, “Well, let it all hang out!” And I broke up. I mean, it just – you ever had one of those times when you’re just so tired and fatigued, somebody says some kinda stupid joke or something, and you laugh your head off until you cry? That’s what happened to me. I just said, “‘Let it all hang out’? Where in the hell did you ever come up with that?” He said, “Oh, it’s just something we used to say when I was in the Air Force.”
And so the next night, we’re in Pasadena and we’re getting ready to write this song. Now, we don’t have any material to record.
And as we were sitting in that motel room, he’s trying to shave. The water isn’t workin’ half the time. And so we started picking up things. I said, “Just tell me something. What’s the craziest thing you can think of right now, off the top of your head? Just tell me.” And he says, “I don’t know, I can’t think of anything – HOT DOG!” I said, “What’s the matter?” He says, “My razor broke.” I said, “Okay, I’ll go with that!” (laughs)
He was talking about his Track II razor – that thing fell apart! He says, “Hot dog!,” you know? “My razor broke.” And see – oh no no no, I know what it was. I said, alright, I asked him, I said, “What’s the first thing -” That wasn’t the first thing though. The first thing – I said, “What’s the first thing you can think of?” and he says, “No parking by the sewer sign.”
Just out of nowhere?
And I said, “What!? Are you – What in the heck brought that on?” And he says, “I’ve never seen a sign that says `Sewer.’ Have you?” And I go, “Well, I’ve seen Stop signs.” And he says, “Well, you ever seen a `Sewer’ sign?” “Come to think about it, no!”
So it was “No parking by the sewer sign/Hot dog, my razor broke.” And here he is, trying to rinse off this razor with this water, and I said, “Well, how about water dripping UP a spout?” There’s the water pouring down, and I said, “Why wouldn’t this spout reverse? Water dripping up a spout? That rhymes with out! I don’t care, let it all hang out!” So there’s where the first verse came from.
I’m thinking about the idea of what about if a guy were walking upside-down on the ceiling, you know? And then we just started thinking just crazy things, like “Hanging from a pine tree by my knees.” Man, you can’t hang from a pine tree! Can ya? What would happen if you tried to hang from a pine tree? You’d fall on your head! “Sun shining through the shade.” Well, how does sun shine through shade? I mean, shade is shade. It don’t shine through it, not really. Just stupid crap like that. And here, the third line, “Nobody knows what it’s all about. It’s too much man, let it all hang out.”
“Saw a man walking upside down.” BB goes over and tries to turn on the television set, and the darn thing wouldn’t work. You know, “My TV’s on the blink.” “Made Galileo look like a Boy Scout.”
Yeah, what does that mean?
That came from an album from a guy named Brother Dave Gardner.
Well then, if I would throw out a line like that, I would understand it, but nobody else would. We took the unfinished song to the studio that next day where Jerry and Johnny added more verses to it such as “Sleep all day, drive all night.” You would usually say, “My brain is numb.” Well, we said “Brain my numb.” “Can’t stop now” – in other words, we couldn’t stop. We’d been up all night, we’d been sleeping during the daytime – my brain is just numb. We’re just fatigued. “Brain my numb, can’t stop now. For sure ain’t no doubt. Keep an open mind – let it all hang out.”
“It’s rainin’ inside a big brown moon.”
Where’d that come from?
Well, let me ask you something. You ever mooned anybody? You ever stuck your butt out the window? Well, Johnny come up with that one. And you know what it would mean if you said it was a BROWN moon. Now there was a phrase going on at that time, during that era – now we said this line, “How does that mess your baby up, leg?” – everybody would say, “How does that mess your mind up, Jack?” And so after a while, if you’re four guys together, you get to where you start inverting things, like “How’s that mess your leg up, baby?” “How’s that mess your baby up, leg?” “How’s that mess your mind-” You see, just stupid crap. It’s stuff you’re doing at the supper table or in the Holiday Inn room. “Well, how’s that mess your baby up, leg?”
“Eating a Reuben-“
“-sandwich with sauerkraut.” I think one of the guys ordered a Reuben sandwich one time just `cause it was on the menu. I took a bite of it; it was horrible. At least, I didn’t like it. But that’s just something, you know, we found it on the – see, we stayed in every Holiday Inn, so we knew the menus pretty good. “Don’t stop now baby/Let it all hang out.”
So that’s what we did. And BB just talks funny. I don’t know – a lot of people seem to think that it was some kind of Texas drawl or something. Naw! This boy just talks that way! (laughs) Huey was down the hall on the phone the whole time we were recording. So, after he got off the phone, he came to hear what we had done. When he heard it, he said, “That @!X#** is a monster!”
That’s awesome! This is what legends are made of, I reckon!
Posted on June 4, 2013, in Songs and lyrics and tagged BB Cunningham, Bob Dylan, Gary McEwen, Johnny Hunter, Let it all hang out, Mark Prindle, nonsensical song, song meaning, The Hombres. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Song meaning: Let it all hang out – The Hombres.