Certain Songs #188: Cheap Trick – “Southern Girls”

image

Album: In Color.

Year: 1977.

Let’s talk about The Handclap Rule. The Handclap Rule – which was handed down by the gods of rock ‘n’ roll – goes like this: “Handclaps always make a good song great and a great song immortal.”  And there may not be a song that invokes The Handclap Rule as well as Cheap Trick’s “Southern Girls.”

So when “Southern Girls” launched into its chorus:


Ooh baby need some brand new shoes
Get out on the street
You got nothing to lose
You rock me and your crazy
And everyone says it, yeah yeah
Southern girls, you got nothing to lose
Southern girls, you got nothing to lose

It’s the handclaps on top of a bit of piano that give the chorus so much momentum.

And then when “Southern Girls goes into the bridge, they mix it up from:

Clap! 
Clap!
Clap!
Clap!

to 

Clap!
Clap Clap!
Clap!
Clap Clap!

All of this is key to the sound of “Southern Girls,” especially on the verses, which are dominated by infinite negative space.  In 1977, the lonesomeness of that sound – just Bun E. Carlos doing a sparse but bouncy beat, Rick Nielsen hitting the occasional chord and Robin Zander’s vocals – was like nothing else on the radio, where even then it felt like every available horizontal and vertical space in every song was filled with some kind of sound.

Fan-made video for “Southern Girls”

Comments are closed.