When I Die – GG Allin
The Troubled Troubadour
9:42 min • Mountain Records • August, 1990
Walter Beck reviews
GG Allin was without a doubt the most notorious punk rocker who ever existed; his shows were brutal excesses in violence and depravity, often featuring fist fights, human excrement, sex acts on stage, the works. GG was the living embodiment of the nihilism that punk often preached. But outside of his on-stage violence and depraved punk records, Allin had an admiration for country music and in 1990, he turn a brief strange turn with musician Mark Sheehan for this acoustic 7-inch.
On side A is ‘When I Die’, probably one of the best songs Allin recorded in his career, a stark acoustic tribute to the strange life he led. With a strong country riff from Allin and a backing steel from Sheehan, Allin sings of his life of decadence with seemingly no regrets,
So when I die put that bottle by my side,
Bury me with ol’ Jim Beam and I’ll be on my hell ride.
When I die, when I die,
Down to Hell is my final destination –
But there are two lines that offer a glimpse into what Allin really thought about his life,
Never lived nowhere long enough to call home,
I’m just an outlaw scumfuc, playing my rock ‘n’ roll –
In the end, that’s all that mattered to him, was rock ‘n’ roll and all the excesses that went with the way Allin played it and lived it.
On side B are two more country numbers, the first ‘Liquor Slicked Highway’ has a stronger rocking riff than ‘When I Die’, albeit still in a stark country vein. Here Allin isn’t in a reflective mood, rather his sings of his booze and dope in a snotty way that only GG could,
I’m the guy who won’t give,
Can’t get close to anyone or anything,
Except the bars and all the drug whores.
Give me you for a night and I’ll even pay for yours –
Allin’s vocals are markedly off rhythm with his and Sheehan’s guitars, but in a strange way, it seems to work. The choppy rhythm invokes the drunken stupor he lived in constantly.
The last song on the 7-inch is ‘Sitting in This Room’ and it has the choppiest rhythm of the entire record, it’s a hard strummed stop and stop country blues number. But it’s also one of the loneliest songs here; Allin reflects his boredom, isolation, drug use, and ultimate desire for escape from it,
Oh, in this room,
With my needle and my spoon,
And a bottle in my arms, pills in my mouth,
In this room.
Oh, in this room,
Four walls of Hell inside this room,
I’m makin’ love to myself,
Inside this room –
GG may have been one of the most anti-social personalities in the history of rock n roll, but this song shows that maybe he still felt a glimmer of human emotion.
This 7-inch stands above the rest of Allin’s discography for its markedly different tone and lyrics. GG built his career and legacy on violent punk rock, sounds soaked in rage and distortion, and lyrics that could frankly offend anybody (check out Allin’s 1988 LP Freaks, Faggots, Drunks, and Junkies if you need verification), but here, with just his acoustic guitar and Mark Sheehan, he carved out a strange bit of musical territory that showed maybe there was more to punk rock’s violent animal than people gave him credit for.
The Troubled Troubadour lived on in the annals of the American underground as one of the first scum country records and Allin recorded a couple other records in a similar vein, his strange gritty country sounds would go on to influence other artists in the contemporary country underground such as Hank Williams III, Joe Buck, and Randy Buttsex.
If you’re not familiar with Allin’s strange and violent musical legacy, this may not be the best place to start, but it is a surprisingly good detour on the back roads of GG Allin.