Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday PSTSS: "If I Had a Boat"

This is probably apocryphal (if it comes from an interview, it's not one I've been able to find online anywhere), but supposedly when Lyle Lovett was asked about this song--from his excellent early album Pontiac, though you can also get it on collections like Cowboy Man--he said it was inspired by his childhood confusion over what he wanted to be when he grew up: a pirate, or a cowboy? Much as I doubt the story, I sure hope it's true. It's perfect! After all, what do most little boys want to do? To go after those open spaces, that's what, whether they be the distant horizon or the Texas plains. Why compromise? You don't need a masked ranger to make you do some dirty job, and you definitely don't need a Dale to domesticate you and make you clean up after yourself--you're young and free, you can move like lightning and leave no tracks behind you, and you can take your pony on your boat and ride him and take care of him and watch movies with him and steer across the open seas to your hearts content. Take that, Mr. Grow-Up-and-Take-Your-Place-in-Society!

I mock the individualist mentality here plenty, because I don't agree with it philosophically and because I think it's often harmful. But that doesn't mean I'd like to extinguish it: it's part of the modern package, an inheritance of millions of people struggling for hundreds of years to figure out social systems where, dammit, they can go buy a pony and boat if that's their dream. Lyle here is a poet of that sensibility, that longing which, at its best, is a mature, responsible, quiet insistence (if not defiance) that is a reminder to us all. So take it away, Mr. Lovett, you and all my Texan and libertarian friends (one of whom first introduced me to this song years ago, during a long drive across west Texas from Dallas to San Angelo). I probably won't ever join you on that boat, but hell, sometimes even I would just like to ride or sail away.

If I had a boat,
I'd go out on the ocean.
And if I had a pony,
I'd ride him on my boat.
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean--
Me upon my pony on my boat.

If I were Roy Rogers,
I'd sure enough be single--
I couldn't bring myself to marrying old Dale.
It'd just be me and Trigger--
We'd go riding through them movies,
Then we'd buy a boat and on the sea we'd sail.

And if I had a boat,
I'd go out on the ocean.
And if I had a pony,
I'd ride him on my boat.
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean--
Me upon my pony on my boat

The mystery masked man was smart--
He got himself a Tonto,
'Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free.
But Tonto he was smarter,
And one day said kemo sabe:
"Kiss my ass I bought a boat,
I'm going out to sea."

And if I had a boat,
I'd go out on the ocean.
And if I had a pony,
I'd ride him on my boat.
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean--
Me upon my pony on my boat.

And if I were like lightning,
I wouldn't need no sneakers--
I'd come and go wherever I would please.
And I'd scare 'em by the shade tree,
And I'd scare 'em by the light pole,
But I would not scare my pony on my boat out on the sea.

And if I had a boat,
I'd go out on the ocean.
And if I had a pony,
I'd ride him on my boat.
And we could all together,
Go out on the ocean--
Me upon my pony on my boat.

3 comments:

Harl Delos said...

Escape by the sea and on ponies are referenced elsewhere in the Lovett body of work:

All my friends told me she was too young
Well I knew that myself and I tried to run
But the faster I ran the more I fell behind
Because she'd already made up her mind

Now there is nothing so deep as the ocean
And there is nothing so high as the sky
And there is nothing so unwavering as a woman
When she's already made up her mind

So now she's sitting at one end of the kitchen table
And she is staring without an expression
And she is talking to me without moving her eyes
Because she's already made up her mind

And she said something about going home
And she said something about needing to spend some time alone
And she wondered out loud what it was she had to find
But she'd already made up her mind

So my friend carry me down to the water's edge
And then sail with me out to that ocean deep
And let me go easy down over the side
And remember me to her

--------------

Now a young girl
She don't know when she's lying
But a woman
Great God she knows how it's done
So mama before I go
There's just one thing on my mind
Which way does that old pony run

And how much is that saddle
And a straight shooting gun
Which way does that old pony run

Russell Arben Fox said...

Harl, thanks for the shout out to "Which Way Does that Old Pony Run," another awesome Lovett tune. But I'm not placing the other song; what is it, and where is it from?

Western Dave said...

"She's already made up her mind" is on the later album Joshua Judges Ruth. JJR is probably my favorite LL album but If I had a Boat was one of the first country songs I learned and Pontiac one of the first three country cassettes I ever bought. (The other two were Dwight Yoakum Guitars Cadillacs etc. etc. and the Garth Brooks album with Friends in Low Places.) I love the similar John Flynn song on his kids album Love Takes a Whole Box of Crayons.


Last night on the late late show I saw old Errol Flynn
Swash his buckle with Olivia Dehavaland
I fell asleep and dreamed I had a moustache pencil-thin
A tall ship and a star to light my way

Sail, sail, sail, sail away
Sail, sail, sail, sail away
I don't know why it is
But sometimes I do wish
That I could sail, sail, sail, sail away

When I was a kid with every birthday I'd barrage
My parents with requests to put down hay in our garage
And buy the palomino I'd ride straight back into Dodge
Sometimes I still wish I could ride away

Ride, ride, ride, ride away
Ride, ride, ride, ride away
I don't know why it is
But sometimes I do wish
That I could ride, ride, ride, ride away

Maybe I'd just take a ride out to the edge of town
Or maybe I'd go far enough to prove the world was round
When troubles that I left behind and troubles that I found
Are just the same... Just the same...

I was still a boy when I first saw an eagle soar
I'd have give anything to wear the wings he wore
And fly so high that nothing really mattered anymore
Except the wind and sun upon my face

Fly, fly, fly, fly away
Fly, fly, fly, fly away
I don't know why it is
But sometimes I do wish
That I could fly, fly, fly, fly away

Sail, sail, sail, sail away
Sail, sail, sail, sail away
I don't know why it is
But sometimes I do wish
That I could sail, sail, sail, sail away