“Let It All Hang Out”
The short-lived band, the Hombres, created this droll, slightly deranged garage rock classic in 1967.
This pinnacle of wise-assery created in 1967 by group from Memphis called The Hombres is as hard to imitate as it is to resist. Among the artists who have covered it competently over the years are John Mellencamp, Jonathan King and Weezer. They all wanted a piece of the cool, basking in its seriously deranged air of folk-art wisdom. Perhaps they were wishing we would forget the original. That wouldn’t be hard to do, as The Hombres aren’t exactly hall-of-famers. But they were there first and with just the right amount of crazed, junkyard authority.
I didn’t know before I started researching this that they were from Memphis, but it starts to make sense when you remember this is also the place that also produced those off-kilter luminaries, Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs. It so makes me want to build a time machine and head back to that town somewhere in the mid sixties. I could catch every great soul artist that town produced, along with a large portion of the greatest rockabilly and gospel ever put down, while I investigate just what makes the eccentrics in this place so damn eccentric!
Let It All Hang Out has inspired a couple Youtube videos that seem to equate it with hippies and the Summer Of Love. Well, it was 1967, but this song has as much to with that west-coast phenomenon as a narc trolling Golden Gate Park with his hair one inch over his ears and a pair of Sears bell-bottoms. On the album cover, The Hombres, possibly inspired by the level of authenticity achieved by Sam The Sham in his faux Arabian duds, adopts equally funny outfits: panchos and sombreros that seem to scream gringo. There is a bit of cheap hustle to this whole operation that I find charming.
It might not work if the lyrics, possibly penned when high on who-knows-what, weren’t such perfect, mind-twisting non-sequiturs:
A preachment, dear friend
You are about to receive on John Barleycorn
Nicotine and the temptations of Eve
No parkin’ by the sewer sign
Hot dog, my razors broke
Water drippin’ up the spout
But I don’t care, let it all hang out
Hangin’ from a pine tree by my knees
Sun is shinin’ through the shade
Nobody knows what it’s all about
It’s too much, man, let it all hang out
Saw a man walkin’ upside down
My T.V.s on the blink
Made Galileo look like a Boy Scout
Sorry ’bout that, let it all hang out
Sleep all day, drive all night
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
How does that mess you baby up, leg
Eatin’ a Reuben sandwich with sauerkraut
Don’t stop now, baby, let it all hang out
Let it all hang out
Let it all hang out
Let it all hang out
© Masters, Hunter, McEwen and Cunningham
William Burroughs, your influence has drifted all the way down to a pretty average garage band from Memphis. If these lyrics weren’t randomized using his cut and paste technique they certainly had an equally great recipe for word salad. I especially like this:”How does that mess you baby up, leg…” and this: “Brain my numb, can’t stop now.” Huh?
The spoken word intro is borrowed from Red Ingle and His Natural Seven’s Cigareetes, Whuskey and Wild, Wild Women.” That one dates to 1947 but we’ll probably hear Mike Huckabee use a few times in the next year.
This song is seminal in some garage-punk sense. It’s a classic example of early DYI ethos at work. It also predates rap, but I’m pretty sure it had little or no influence on that genre. There are many days when I wish songs like this had more influence than they seem to. It has a beautiful American daffiness to it and reflects a time when getting it wrong sounded almost as as good as getting it right. I’m not sure which category this song falls into.
Cunningham was shot and killed while working as a security guard and the drummer, died by his own hand, also using a gun. That’s a sad ending for such a carefree band, so today, in their honor, I’m going to let it all hang out.