Faces — Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners

So, as much as I love Faces’ studio albums, uneven though they may have been, their live work is just amazing. I’m glad that there are a number of bootlegs out there to supplement this album, which was their only official live release.

Coast to Coast front cover
Coast to Coast front cover

This was recorded live in Anaheim, California in October 1973, a few months after their final studio album was released and about a year and a half before the group officially broke up when Ron Wood left for The Rolling Stones. (Ian McLagan ended up going along with him as a sideman.) Rod Stewart, whose solo work predated Faces (though it also included members of the band), did not exactly need the band and went on to incredible success, albeit with much lesser material (the latter part of the ‘70s was tough on many people).

But this album shows Faces at their raw, rocking best. It shows that they were, first and foremost, a rock ’n’ roll band, right along the lines of The Stones (no coincidence or far reach then that two Faces members would contribute to The Rolling Stones’ legacy). Even lacking founder Ronnie Lane. who had already quit, this is rocking good fun. The band sounds like they’re having a good time, and the audience definitely is.

As I said back on my first Faces entry, I have a very deep but late-blooming affection for Faces, and this album particularly, and I had this digitally long before I found a copy on vinyl. Love it.

Coast to Coast back cover
Coast to Coast back cover


I need to rant. I need to rant about a song that has been part of my life for decades, a song that I cannot not listen to, a song that flirts with roots rock greatness, and a song that makes me scream every time I hear it with anger over the patriarchy. That song is “Cut Across Shorty.”

I first knew the song as an Eddie Cochran version, done up in his pure old rockabilly good ol’ boy voice, sung with a little bit of a sly sneer. It turns out to have been a staple for Faces as well. It was originally written by Marijohn Wilkin and Wayne P. Walker, and on its face, it’s just some downhome rockabilly oldtimey nonsense. But if you really listen to it, it’s insane misogynistic patriarchal nonsense, and while I love the song, I also hate the song. It’s that kind of song.

Now a country boy called Shorty
And a city boy named Dan
Had to prove who could run the fastest
To win Miss Lucy’s hand

Why. I mean, what the fuck? In what world outside of Dogpatch (gonna have to look up Li’l Abner, kids) does this make any sense?

Now Dan had all the money
And he also had the looks
But Shorty musta had that something, boys
That can’t be found in books

As the guy without the money or the looks, of course I’m expected to side with Shorty; in fact, all listeners are expected to side with Shorty. That doesn’t even deal with the non sequitur in this verse — you don’t find money or looks in books, either. What Shorty had goes undescribed. Suffice it to say, as the chorus is about to confirm, that Miss Lucy prefers Shorty:

Well, "Cut across, Shorty, Shorty, cut across"
That's what Miss Lucy said
"Cut across, Shorty, Shorty, cut across
It's you that I wanna wed'

THEN THAT’S WHOM YOU MARRY, LUCY. Don’t decide your life based on who wins a footrace. What the fuck, again.

Now Dan had been in training
About a week before the race
He made up his mind old Shorty
Would end in second place
And Dan with his long legs a-flying
Left Shorty far behind
And Shorty heard him holler out
"Miss Lucy, you’ll soon be mine"

Miss Lucy again tells Shorty to cut across. To cheat, in order to get the outcome she wants. Which was within her power the whole time. We don’t need to have this race, at all. It makes no sense. As the final verse confirms:

But Shorty wasn't worried
There was a smile upon his face
He knew that he was a-going to win
'Cause Lucy had fixed the race
And just like that old story
About the turtle and the hare
When Danny crossed over the finish line
He found Shorty waiting there

Again: what is happening here?! I don’t know who I’m angriest with. You’re supposed to root against Dan, who is the only one playing by the rules, though the rules appear to be the Patriarchy’s rules, so fuck that. Shorty is willing to cheat to get what he wants — perhaps cheating was what couldn’t be found in books?. And Miss Lucy — I know it’s the 1950s, but if there’s someone you want to marry and someone you don’t, this isn’t how you solve it. ARRGGHHHHHH.

But a great song. {/endrant]

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