The next song starts up - a kind of distinctive country chicken scratch-shuffle and the words:
Don’t call my name out your window, I’m leavin'.The voice is even more distinctive - like no other on the planet. That of Johnny Cash.
It seemed incredibly appropriate that Johnny Cash's drawl should form the soundtrack for my circumstances. A cement-mixer truck had just emerged out of the twilight murk and barrelled past me, on a closed to traffic part of the road, scraying me with so much dust that I had to lift my shirt up over my face to avoid choking. Yet all the heat and dust was batted away by Johnny and his fine fine song. So much so that I ended up with a big grin on my face. Meditate on it.
In truth, I've only been a sometime friend to J R Cash over the years. I own vinyl copies of the prison albums (San Quentin and Folsom) and that's it, apart from tracks on various samplers (where Understand Your Man on my ipod must have come from).
But he seems to have always been there in one form or another:
- a copy of his Ballad of a Teenage Queen 45 (produced the year I was born) lying around my cousin's bedroom when I was very young
- those prison albums
- The Johnny Cash Show in the early seventies
- the Levis advert using Ring of Fire
- Hurt and the renaissance years
- and now my own children are putting Ring Of Fire on compilations for me. Full circle.
Needless to say Jacky hates him. In Dubai on the weekend she saw me looking at the J Cash racks and was horrified. She calls it Hillbilly music and the thing is I can kind of understand where that comes from. It's music she heard growing up in her mother's house and it's therefore old and because her mother liked it it's tarred with a brush called annoying that, for her, has also touched Neil Diamond, Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline, among others.
Jacky made a remark to the salesman that was a kind of a laughed apology. But what she doesn't get is that Johnny has always been different to those other names, and that succeeding generations (like the shop assistant, and our own children) actually like the cool songs of Johnny Cash.
You hear me talkin' honey?