“Can't you see, ohh, can't you see
What that woman, Lord, she been doin' to me.”
This song has bugged me for years because I hate lazy songwriting. Yeah, I know, It was a huge hit. Great chorus but the verses don’t hold up. Not just that but song structure wise - if you can play a D chord, then a C chord and lastly a G chord - you can play this whole song. There is no bridge, no modulation, no second part just jamming over 3 chords for a little over six minutes. Not that musical complexity makes for a better song but this is musical boredom, it’s lazy, it’s lowest common denominator music.
Yeah, of course it’s a great summer jam with flute solo but it’s still a half ass written song.
When I hear this song - and it’s still played A LOT - on the radio all I can think of is the person that wrote this song and the kind of relationship they would’ve been in in order to half write it. The only clue that is given to any kind of understanding is in the second verse when he says:
“I'm gonna find me
A hole in the wall
I'm gonna crawl inside and die
'Cause my lady, now
A mean ol' woman, Lord
Never told me goodbye.”
He puts all the blame on the woman, accepts no responsibility for any part of his story and pretty much just says “bitches be crazy” and that’s it.
There's this guy I know and a few years ago he got fired from his job. I asked him why and he was like “I don’t know. They just fired me with no explanation.” Now I’ve been fired from a few jobs and here’s the thing - you always know why you’ve been fired. If you are not aware enough to know this, most likely you’ve been told several times and it is not sinking in. This guy was one of those dudes that wasn’t going to learn anything without making the same mistake a dozen times with many people telling him “dude, you shouldn’t do that or you’re going to get fired.” I don’t even have to get into specifics - you probably know a dude like this.
Now Mr. Marshall Tucker seems to be that kind of dude. His woman never told him goodbye. Boo-Hoo. I’m sure she said it a dozen times. She probably said things like “if you don’t stop leaving your dirty underwear on the floor, I swear to Jesus I’m gonna leave.” Or “That’s it, I’m out of here, I’ll be at my mothers.” And he was just like “alright, get me some beer while you’re out.” and she didn’t come back and he's not smart enough to ask around and say
"Hey, has anyone seen Becky?"
"Yeah man, she's staying with her mother."
"Oh, is it because she's a mean ol' woman?"
"No man, she said it's because of you, she left because you never listen to her."
And this bothers me more than it should.
It’s god damn classic rock and EVERYONE knows this song. Hell, I've played it a bunch of times, I’ve never practiced it or learned the verses because you can say anything in them and no one else knows the difference - that’s how bad the lyrics are.
“Gonna take a freight train
Oh lord a freight train
Gonna take that train on home
Gonna sit in my seat
Oh lord my reserved seat
Don’t care if I’m on the aisle.
Can’t you see?*”
Those lyrics could be the lyrics. You don’t know. Enough of them sound right and they move the story along just as much as the actual lyrics and they fit meter wise. I wrote them in the same amount of time it took to type them. Marshall Tucker had more than 15 seconds to write a verse and they didn’t try much harder than I just did making up new words.
My gripe with this isn’t that people love “Can’t you see”, my gripe is that it’s a missed opportunity to write something meaningful with a great chorus. That chorus is KILLER. It gets stuck in your head for days but it’s a chorus without a story. Not just that but they never even used a question mark with the song title making it grammatically incorrect as well. It IS a question. Can’t you see? They weren’t even smart enough to put the goddamn question mark on there.
There are a lot of half ass hit songs out there** and this has nothing to do with me thinking that any brain droppings of mine belong to be elevated to classic rock status but more with other artists songs that are not.
Kathleen Edwards has a song called “Asking for flowers” that maybe could be the flip side of the story of “Can’t you see.” You can almost imagine it as the woman that left having written this.
“Every pill I took in vain
Every meal for you I made
Every penny I put away...
Asking for flowers
Is like asking you to be nice
Don't tell me you're too tired
Ten years I've been working nights.”
There is more story in that chorus of Kathleen’s song than in the entirety of Can’t you see and this isn’t even my favorite K.E. song, I don’t think it’s even her best song - it’s just one that comes to mind as a response to “Can’t you see.”
“My life is like a picture
Left out too long in the sun
Now I'm trying to remember all
The faces of the names I've loved
And all that's left of me now is
A cigarette burning bright
And a fading memory of all the things
I tried to get right”
Now that is a song lyric. This should be elevated to classic rock status. If “Asking for flowers” got 1% of the rotation of “Can’t you see” the world would be a better place, there would be better songwriters, there would be a deeper understanding of the human condition.
Maybe if it had a flute solo...
*Look, I even used a goddamn question mark like any normal person would.
**The Killers song “Mr Brightside” is another song that pisses me off. The music of this song is fantastic, it rocks, it has a great first verse and chorus but that’s it. He just repeats the same first verse and sings the chorus again. Yeah, it was a hit for them but it’s still only HALF a song. They wrote a killer (pun intended) first verse and chorus. They could’ve spent some time working on a second verse and moved the story along but NO, it’s good enough. Do most people even notice this? I don’t know. How could you NOT notice that they’re only singing half a song, or the same half twice? Musically and vocally this song rocks. It would be great if they just finished writing the damn thing.
“All right now” by Free always sticks in my craw as well. Shit, they left the metronome on in the song and you can even hear where they’re off around the 2:50 mark! Now again the music is pretty rockin, great guitar and bass solo but this one sounds like they just looped the tape and the first and second verse are exactly the same, same inflection in the vocals as well. It’s half a song with a guitar solo and yet will get played forever on classic rock radio.