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Song Stories

“Alison”

Elvis Costello | 1977

On Elvis Costello’s country-tinged ballad, the lyric does not get too sentimental in recalling an ex who had since been with one of the singer's "little friends" and is now married. Some believe the song is about murder, due to lines like “Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking,” "Somebody better put out the big light" and, of course, "My aim is true,” which became the title of Costello's debut album. In 2002, Costello told Rolling Stone, “It isn’t [about murder]. It’s about disappointing somebody. It’s a thin line between love and hate, as the Persuaders sang.”

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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