Big Star – The Ballad of El Goodo

This would make it in my own top 10 songs of all time. The tone of the guitars, harmonies and the perfect constructed chorus keeps me coming back listen after listen. The song is on Big Star’s album Number1 Record.

Most of the songs on the album could have been a single.

From Songfacts.

In a 1992 interview with Oor magazine, the songs’ co-writer Alex Chilton (who is credited along with Chris Bell) revealed that, whilst he felt that Big Star’s “music is still a triumph – some of the time,” he said “I didn’t understand how to make the right sound with my voice, so things like ‘Ballad Of El Goodo’ and ‘Thirteen’ could have been better.”

Though the song can be interpreted as a broad, abstract paean to anti-conformity and independence, the lyrics could more specifically allude to the Vietnam War. The first verse plays with the idiom “stick to your guns,” which could easily be literalized with the second verse:

“There’s people around who tell you that they know
The places where they send you, and it’s easy to go
They’ll zip you up and dress you down, stand you in a row
But you know you don’t have to
You can just say no”

The Vietnam War was seemingly important to Chilton. In an 2010 obituary for Nashvillescene.com following Chilton’s death, John “Bucky” Wilkin, lead singer and songwriter for ’60s surf rock group Ronny & the Daytonas, said: “Vietnam was the war we both related to, more on the level of the Buddhist priests who set themselves on fire in protest than as the American combat soldiers – both of us somehow being able to avoid the draft.”

In our 2013 interview, Big Star drummer Jody Stephens expressed how he felt the song revealed Chilton and Bell to be a cut above the average rock n’ roller: “All of a sudden I’m playing with these guys that can write songs that are as engaging to me as the people I’d grown up listening to, so I felt incredibly lucky.” He also singled out the song as one of his favorites to play.

Counting Crows covered the song for their 2012 album of covers Underwater Sunshine (or What we did on our Summer Vacation). In a 2012 interview with Paste magazine, frontman Adam Duritz said “One of the last changes we made was putting ‘The Ballad of El Goodo’ at the end of the record. I find it hard to follow that song on a record. I really love that song… it’s speaking about survival.”

The Ballad of El Goodo

Years ago, my heart was set to live, oh
But I’ve been trying hard against unbelievable odds
It gets so hard in times like now to hold on
My guns they’re waiting to be stuck by
At my side is God

And there ain’t no one goin’ turn me ’round
Ain’t no one goin’ turn me ’round

There’s people around who tell you that they know
The places where they send you, and it’s easy to go
They’ll zip you up and dress you down
Stand you in a row
But you know you don’t have to
You could just say no

And there ain’t no one goin’ turn me ’round
Ain’t no one goin’ turn me ’round
Ain’t no one goin’ turn me ’round
Ain’t no one goin’ turn me ’round

I’ve been built up and trusted
Broke down and busted
But they’ll get theirs and we’ll get ours
Just if we can
Just, ah, hold on
Hold on
Hold on
Hold on

Years ago my heart was set to live, oh
But I’ve been trying hard against strong odds
It gets so hard at times like now to hold on
Well, I’ll fall if I don’t fight
And at my side is God

Ain’t there no one goin’ turn me ’round
Ain’t no one goin’ turn me ’round
Ain’t no one goin’ turn me ’round
Ain’t no one goin’ turn me ’round
Hold on
Hold on
Hold on
Hold on

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

18 thoughts on “Big Star – The Ballad of El Goodo”

  1. Rather good! I’d never heard it before, thanks for bringing it to our attention! I need to listen to some Big Star- really flew under the radar, I think I first heard of them maybe 5 years ago when Peter Buck was raving about their music and comparing them to the Byrds as an inspiration to him

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You may know one of their songs “Out in the Street” probably… That is the song in “That Seventies Show” intro.
      Great band that remained unknown for years.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for giving it a try. I knew a lot of people wouldn’t know it. The only song they have that a lot of people know is “Out in the Street”…from That Seventies Show intro.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Songs that don’t get old…that are timeless. The one that comes to my mind…well for me is “A Day In The Life” by the Beatles…thats me though.

      Like

  2. A few years ago, I was dining at a small restaurant in Santa Monica. The place was empty, but for one other table & that was occupied by the great Jody Stephens. So, technically, he and I had dinner to-gether once.

    Liked by 1 person

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