She was fresh out of college
The first one in her family to go
and California seemed like heaven,
Pulaski, Tennessee was her home
She worked on losing her southern accent
and turned her back on her Baptist ways
She bought some clothes that barely covered her fair skinned body,
Went to Nashville and caught a plane
The clouds rushed beneath her
as the LA smog filled the air
She smiled when the airlock opened
and the Pacific breeze blew through her hair
She thought about the boys from Alabama
Who came into town every Friday night
and drank beer out of big glass quart bottles
and left their trail of blood and tears behind
She thought the men from California would be different
She'd grown up watching them on her TV
But the men she came to know in California
Left her longing for Pulaski, Tennessee
Good ideas always start with a full glass
and just breathing here can make a girl's nose bleed
Dreams here live and die just like a stray dog
on a dirt road somewhere in Tennessee
The storefronts all filled up with eyeballs
As the policemen clear out the street
For a line of cars with their headlights burning
Driving slow through Pulaski, Tennessee
Once I started taking notice of this little "gem", the first thing that grabbed my attention was the backing vocals going "ooo-ooo-ooh" following the choruses and with Neffs pedal steel carefully blending in at the end. I also dig the accordion - I suppose it's Jay playing that. Far from my favorite instrument, but here I think it fits the song perfect. The production is awesome, just turn up the volume and listen to the woody bass and the muffled kick-drum, and the sound of the room it was recorded in.
The song, in my view, serves as a stellar example of Cooley's songwriting. The melody, chord progression and groove can hardly be said to be original, but this is Cooley's strength as a songwriter; it's all about making clichés work. Also the theme it self, small-town girl leaving home to explore the world is nothing new, however the imagery and the darkness that seeps in towards the end sets it apart from "the average country tune".
What really makes the lyrics work for me is what is not being said. The girl goes to California, but what really happens there? Did she only go there to seek out the men or did she have a go at a career in the entertainment industry?
There was a thread about the interpretation of the last couple of verses back in september last year;
RaidPanther88 wrote:I always interpreted the ending as her dying from a drug overdose, probably cocaine. She goes to California, it doesn't meet her expectations, falls in with the wrong people. The line about the nose bleeding makes me think of cocaine, a line of cars driving through the night with policemen clearing out the street makes me think of a line of cars driving down the road "rubbernecking" at a tragedy along the side, and then the line of cars driving slow through Pulaski at the end of the song makes me think of a line of cars driving slow in a funeral procession. My interpretation, at least.
Smitty wrote:The only concrete detail is that there's a funeral back in Pulaski, - "policemen clear out the street, for a the line of cars with their headlights burning" is the procession after they've brought her body home; I think the overdose assumption works, but I personally always thought she was a victim of domestic violence, hence the "the men she came to know in California left her longing for Pulaski, Tennessee"
Both interpretations seems reasonable to me. But what about the headlights of the cars? Do they have the funeral procession in the middle of the night? And why are cops needed to clear the streets in a town with less than 8000 inhabitants? I'm wondering if perhaps this girl became some kind of a celebrity over there in California?
Cooley talks about the song and why he chose Pulaski in GGB Episode #2. I also noticed the street stradling the west wall of The 40 Watt Club in Athens is called Pulaski Street. You have to cross it on your way back to the Dazed Inn or the Courtyard after the show.