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Old 03-20-2005, 12:34 PM
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Iselin, NJ
Posts: 4,790
Boz Scaggs' "Lowdown": what's this song really about?

First, a link to the lyrics of the song, which is off of Boz Scaggs' classic 1976 LP Silk Degrees.

For me, there's a cascading series of possible interpretations, each more sinister or perverse than the last. My first impression was that it's simply about money: there's not quite enough of it, at least the way the woman is spending it, so the narrator advises the man (whom he calls "boy" and "son," so it sounds like it's a father or older friend talking to his son or younger friend) to sit her down and deliver "the sad, sad truth, the dirty lowdown". This interpretation is strengthened supported by the first two stanzas (I'm not including the choruses).

But isn't the man's girl doing more than just spending his money and talking him up as her sugar daddy? (Review the first stanza.) Is she actually cheating on him too ("running around... hanging with the crowd")? I'm not really sold on this interpretation -- she could just be hanging out with friends and avoiding him, without cheating on him in the carnal sense.

But what if "the lowdown," while admittedly involving her profligate spending (of both his money and her attentions on friends), is really referring to an unpleasant truth he should share with her about himself -- a necessity only made more imperative by her bad ways? The third stanza supports the view that the man in question may not be suited for the mainstream/middle class/bourgois rat race and the proverbial keeping up with the Joneses -- a lifestyle which the man might have struggled to attain after growing up in humbler circumstances. But some lines ("Come on back down earth, son," "You ain't got to be so bad, got to be so cold," "You gonna come back around") suggest other motives at work, which may not be to the advantage of the young man as much as the [unreliable?] narrator. If the narrator is trying to seduce the man to return to a slacker or trailer-trash-like way of life, is he doing so out of genuine concern for the younger man's well-being? It sounds as if it could also be out of a selfish desire for the young man to simply be closer to him. It could even be out of a sense of schadenfreude, to see the successful man back on the narrator's socio-economic level.

And, finally, could there be a sexual secret of the man's as well? Nowadays, "on the lowdown" is gay slang for a man who stays in the closet while indulging in gay encounters in secret. Did this phrase, which is currently used amongst gay African-Americans in particular, have that meaning back in 1976? This suggests a more far-fetched interpretation: what if the narrator knows or suspects that his son (or friend) is secretly gay, and is struggling to maintain the cheerful fascade of prosperity and a happy marriage? The second-stanza line "Put your money on the table and drive if off the lot" could possibly be read as advice on how to go about getting a divorce: the man should be generous and charming and seduce his girl to give up her sugar daddy (presumably without "putting your business on the street" and "talking out loud" about it in town.)

What do you all think?
Old 03-20-2005, 02:48 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 15
I believe the "lowdown" refers to posting an ill-mannered lyrics link that attempts to load crapware onto your computer, and requires the use of ctrl-alt-del to end the offending IE process.

Written decades before the popularization of the internet, ole Boz was quite prescient.


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