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23 June, 2014

A Literary Review of The Steve Miller Band's "Take The Money And Run"

This here's the story of Billy Joe & Bobby Sue
Two young lovers with nothing better to do
Than sit around the house, get high, and watch the tube
Here's what happened when they decided to cut loose

The first verse sets the stage for what seems like a simple, perhaps trite, but potentially amusing story of typical youth in the 1970s. Disillusioned, bored, experimenting with drugs, and generally just taking it easy in life, with no real direction. Not unlike many stories from that era. At this point, other than the stereotypical characters, the story has modest potential.

They headed south to El Paso
You know they ran into a great big hassle
Billy Joe shot a man while robbing his castle
Bobby Sue took the money and run

At this point, very early in this story, I already feel like I have missed a huge piece of the setup. Where's the back story? Where's the character development? I don't know who Bobby Sue and Billy Joe even are, and next thing you know, BAM! Billy Joe has shot a man. And while robbing his castle, at that! Who lives in a castle in Texas? I feel like somewhere between heading south to El Paso, and running into this hassle, there ought to have been some diner scenes, perhaps some lovemaking in a truck-stop parking lot, perhaps an offer to do some kind of sketchy job for one of the locals, promises of better things that didn't come to be... probably weeks, if not months leading up to this discovery of some man who lives in a castle, to whose castle they can gain access. How was that possible? Was Billy Joe doing pool cleaning for him or something? Did Bobby Sue pretend to be flirting with the guy in a strip club, to gain invitation back to the rich man's house? All these things, I do not know.

And, best of all, after Billy Joe shot the man about whom we know so little (where did BJ come upon a gun, I wonder), Bobby Sue took the money. And run. Not ran. Run. Yes. Steve Miller was so determined to stay true to his song title, that he could not be bothered with kindergarten grammar.

Go on, take the money and run...
Go on, take the money and run...
Go on, take the money and run...
Go on, take the money and run...

No real criticisms about the chorus. It's definitely solid.

Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas
You know he knows just exactly what the facts is
He ain't gonna let those two escape justice
He makes his living off other people's taxes

So now, things get interesting, because halfway through this epic, we are introduced to an entirely new character, also a Billy, but this time, it's Billy Mack. And at this point, I think that it was probably Steve Miller who was sitting around getting high and watching the tube, because he couldn't be bothered to tell us anything substantive about Billy Mack, other than the grammatically incorrect details about his knowledge of the facts (it was not, prior to this point, clear to me that there was any dispute about what the facts was). We didn't hear about the police. We didn't hear about probable cause. We didn't hear about evidence at the crime scene that would cause Billy Mack to have such certainty. We only know three things: (1) he knows what the facts is, (2) under NO CIRCUMSTANCES will BJ and BS elude the iron fist of justice (remember that, as it is important later on in the story), and (3) he works for the state.

Onward...

Bobby Sue, oh, she slipped away
Billy Joe caught up with her the very next day
They got the money, yeah, they got away
They headed down south, and they're still running today

Without much of a struggle, Bobby Sue was able to wriggle free from the unstoppable Billy Mack. In fact, I am not sure that Billy Mack even had a chance to stand up from his desk and don his cowboy hat, before Bobby Sue was already enjoying Huevos Rancheros in the Chihuahua District. Keep this in mind when he promises he'll return the hedge clippers that he borrowed. His word is weak, at best. But, nonetheless, you figure, he's still got a decent chance of catching Billy Joe, who is apparently much slower moving than Bobby Sue, since it took him an entire day to catch up to her. But no. Billy Joe also got away. With the money. Yeah.

We're left hanging though, in the end, because they're supposedly still running. Even today. Thirty-six years later. Sort of like hippie, Bonnie & Clyde, stoner His & Hers Forrest Gumps.

Singing...

Go on, take the money and run...
Go on, take the money and run...
Go on, take the money and run... ooh lord...
Go on, take the money and run

The "ooh lord" in the end really seals the deal on this one for me. A real quality piece of work.

1 comment:

  1. I think it is "They got the money, yeah, you know they got away" you left out the 'you know' part, which seems to indicate the relating the tale is a moot point, because we, the reader/listener, already know they got away...

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