‘Give Up Your Guns . . .’

Scanning the 6+30 survey that the Twin Cities’ KDWB released on June 7, 1971 – fifty years ago yesterday – I struggled to find something fresh. Until I got to the very bottom line, No. 36, where I saw “Give Up Your Guns” by the Buoys.

I remembered the Buoys and their hit from the previous spring, “Timothy,” about the aftermath of a mining cave-in that might have included cannibalism (unless Timothy was a pack mule, which I’ve heard bandied about). “Timothy” was No. 1 for two weeks at KDWB as March turned into April (and went to No. 17 nationally on the Billboard Hot 100), so I heard the record plenty, learning years later that it was written by Rupert Holmes of “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” fame.

But “Give Up Your Guns”? I have no memory of that one. I did a quick search in the RealPlayer, and there it was, though when I gathered it, I have no idea. It turns out to be a “boy on the lam from the cops” song with a nicely done melody in a minor key:

When I woke up this morning
I found myself alone
I turned to touch her hair, but she was gone
She was gone
And there beside my pillow
Were her tears from the night before
She said, give up your guns and face the law

I robbed a bank in Tampa
And I thought I had it made
But the hounds picked up my trail within the glades
So I ran
And I stumbled on this cabin
And she came to me once more
She said, give up your guns and face the law

I don’t wanna leave her
I don’t wanna die
Deep within a cold, cold grave
With no one ’round to cry
But I have got my pistol
Now it’s time to choose
Shooting here or hanging there
And either way I lose

And now, I’m in this cabin
Where my own true love should be
Instead, there lies a note she wrote to me
And it says
No, you can’t live by the bullet
But you sure as death can die
My love, give up your guns or say goodbye, goodbye

And the sheriff now is calling
With his shotgun at my door
Son, give up your guns and face the law

That’s all told nicely in 2:34 or so, but then the strange thing happens: An instrumental passage – nice but repetitive – starts and runs for another 1:30 or so. It’s pleasant, but I can’t imagine a radio station letting it go for the entire length, so I wondered if the copy of the track I had was some kind of oddity. But the folks at discogs say the 45 runs 4:14. My track’s a second shorter, which is no big deal.

So that long instrumental at the end is kind of odd. (An album track evidently ran about two minutes longer yet.)

The record stiffed. It stayed on the KDWB survey for another three weeks and peaked at No. 24, and nationally, it stalled at No. 84 on the Hot 100. And the Buoys never saw the charts again.

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