“Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White”

Those who grew up in the era of countless cowboy movies and television shows were always able to identify the “bad guys” because they wore black hats and often black outfits. The “good guys” invariably wore white or light-colored clothes and hats (with the notable exception of Hopalong Cassidy and The Cisco Kid).

The Standells

 

Many still ascribe to that notion, even though many have evolved in their thinking. In 1966, that black vs. white identification was firmly in place. The Standells, famous for their simple Top 40 hit “Dirty Water,” dove into a much dirtier subject with the lyrics of this song:

I’m a poor boy born in the rubble
And some say my manners ain’t the best
And some of my friends, yeah, they’ve been in real trouble
And some say I’m no better than the rest
But tell your mama and your papa
Sometimes good guys don’t wear white, yeah

Every day baby, I work hard
And it’s true at night, I spend a restless time
But those rich kids and all that lazy money
Can’t hold a candle to mine
So tell your mama and your papa
Sometimes good guys don’t wear white

Good guys bad guys which is which
The white collar worker or the digger in the ditch
Hey, and who’s to say who’s the better man
When I’ve always done the best I can

How bad was his dirty mind
All those messed up chicks of the changin’ times
White pills and easy livin’
Can’t replace the love I’ve given
So tell your mama and your papa
Sometimes good guys don’t wear white

Ha, I mean to tell ya
You better tell your mama and your papa somethin’
I’ll split off by myself with another chick yeah, Ah just a kick
You think those guys in the white collars are better than I am baby
Then flake off

You don’t dig this long hair, get yourself a crew-cut baby
Yeah
I mean what I said

“Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” followed by less than a year a song that dug at least in part to the same idea. The Standells sang:

Hey, and who’s to say who’s the better man
When I’ve always done the best I can

 

That recalled the brilliance of a tune from The Yardbirds’ U.S. album Havin’ a Rave Up: “You’re a Better Man Than I”:

Can you judge a man
By the way he wears his hair?
Can you read his mind
By the clothes that he wears?
Can you see a bad man
By the pattern on his tie?

[Chorus:]
Then Mister you’re a better man than I
Yeah Mister You’re a better man than I
Oh Mister You’re a better man than I
Yeah Mister You’re a better man than I

Could you tell a wise man
By the way he speaks or spells?
Is this more important
Than the stories that he tells?
And call a man a fool
If for wealth he doesn’t strive

[Chorus]

Could you condemn a man
If your faith he doesn’t hold?
Say the colour of his skin
Is the colour of his soul?
Or could you say if men
For king and country all must die?

[Chorus]

Read more about that song here.

The Standells’ song first appeared on Tower Records album Why Pick On Me — Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White. It was written by Ed Cobb, the band’s manager. It was issued as a single in July 1966; the album was released it November. The single made it to #43 on the Billboard Hot 100.

And the lyrics are just as relevant 56 years later. **SIGH**

 

Australian single

 

 

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