Album: Lubbock (On Everything)
. . .
On the short list of the Prettiest Songs Ever, Proto-Alt-Country Division, “The Beautiful Waitress” is also maybe the most gorgeous song ever about being a total jackass towards a pretty girl, and is on of those songs I fell in love with before I fully read the lyrics, as we’ll discuss in a little bit.
While Terry Allen has been making albums off and on since 1975, the only one I’ve ever heard is 1979’s Lubbock (On Everything), which is now basically regarded — along with the Flatlanders-associated albums — kind of a precursor to what eventually got called alt-country: music that is obviously country but made totally away from the Nashville machine. (Which usually means that it’s made in Texas.)
Which makes sense, because Terry Allen is probably as well known as a visual artist, and I just now read on his Wikipedia page that he spent nearly all of the 1970s teaching at my alma mater, California State University, Fresno. Which means that some of you might have taken his classes, and given that Lubbock (On Everything) came out during that tenure, it automatically also becomes maybe the greatest album by a Fresno State professor, give or take something that I’m not thinking of right this second.
Anyways, “The Beautiful Waitress” is basically a piano-driven waltz-time song about being on the road and crushing on a waitress, and sports a chorus that utterly kills me.
‘Cause you’ll only see her once
Only this one time at lunch
And she might as well see you too
Ahhh…it’s the last time
(It’s the last time)
(It’s the last time)
You’re passing through
That chorus also features the harmonies of multi-instrumentalist Lloyd Maines — a Texas legend who played on and produced the album, and also happened to be the father of Natalie Maines — and bassist Kenny Maines, and their breakdown on “it’s the last time” floors me every time. As does the combination of Allen’s piano and the fiddle of Richard Bowden, which basically make up the bulk of the music, including an devastatingly lovely instrumental break between the second and third verses.
Which are the problematic verses, as Allen’s character touches her fingers when she clears her table in the second verse and flat-out kisses her in the third one. Or, if you want to be charitable, imagines doing such things without actually doing those things, I’m honestly not sure which. At best, it’s still kinda creepy.
Or not, because the coda kinda makes it seem like it was all in his head, because it describes a scene that I’m 95% sure was the inciting incident for the song.
A waitress asked me what I did
I told her I tried to make art
She asked me if I made any money
I said, “No I have to teach to do that”
She asked me what I taught and where
I told her, she told me, she liked art
But that she couldn’t draw a straight line
I told her if she could reach for something
And pick it up she could draw a line
That was straight enough
She said, she weren’t interested in that kind of drawing
But always liked horses, I said “I did too”
But they’re hard to draw, she said, “Yes, that was very true”
Said she could do the body okay, but never get the head
Tail or legs, I told her she was drawing sausages, not horses
She said no, they were horses
This is all recited over what sounds like an arpeggiated 12-string guitar by Lloyd Maines, and now I’m imagining that when he told her he taught at Fresno State, she had no idea where that was.
“The Beautiful Waitress”
“The Beautiful Waitress” Live in 2022
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