For her classic 1967 LP Country, My Way, Nancy imbued contemporary Nashville material with “The Nancy Sound.” In the process, Nancy also imbued Bill Anderson’s “Get While The Gettin’s Good” with the bold protofeminist statement she had pioneered on “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” and its follow-up single, “How Does That Grab You, Darlin’?.” The newly released tribute compilation Soul Jazz Records Presents Country Soul Sisters: Women In Country Music 1952-78, which features Nancy’s “Get While The Gettin’s Good,” recognizes her cultural contributions on two fronts: a rock ‘n’ roll icon who has successfully crossed over to country music and a trailblazing feminist hero.
As a feminist, Nancy’s cultural impact is complex and multifaceted.
• Through her provocative record and CD covers and her May 1995 Playboy pictorial , Nancy has demonstrated that “sexuality and feminism are not mutually exclusive,” as she explained in the You Go-Go Girl! CD booklet:
“Just because you’re a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t be sexy.”
• Through her decision to focus on raising her daughters before returning to performing in 1995, Nancy has demonstrated the aspect of personal choice in feminism. Nancy revealed, in her Playboy interview, that she has no regrets:
“It was really important that I be there in the morning to make breakfast, pack the peanut butter sandwiches and send the girls off to school. And then to be there at three o’clock to hear their laughter or their anger or their frustration with what went on that day. I wouldn’t trade money or hit records for a minute of that.”
Additionally, Nancy proudly recalled to Jon Stewart, on the April 10, 1995 broadcast of his syndicated TV talk show,
Of her role as Mom, Nancy told Donny & Marie, on the April 9, 1999 episode of their show,
• Through perseverance in her career, Nancy has demonstrated her four precepts, which are aligned with the concept of feminism:
These precepts are also implied in the message of female empowerment in the aforementioned recordings and Nancy’s interpretations of “Step Aside,” “100 Years,” and “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time.” This post focuses on the latter three songs and the recently spotlighted “Get While The Gettin’s Good.”
A few months prior to the release of her “Step Aside,” Nancy’s motivational statement with “Boots” made a profound impression on the collective consciousness. On The Jon Stewart Show (April 10, 1995) and The Howie Mandel Show (May 17, 1999), Nancy discussed how she had become a role model for “women’s liberation.”
What Jon Stewart described as Nancy’s “tough lady” persona is certainly expressed in her approach to “Step Aside,” a declaration of independence from a toxic relationship. In addition to its feminist connotation, Nancy’s fearless and resolute delivery creates an anthem of perseverance for everyone in any aspect of life.
“‘Cause if I listen anymore
You might be talkin’ from the floor
So step aside
You’re standin’ in my way”
Although Nancy’s version of “Step Aside” had originally been released on her 1966 Nancy In London LP (reissued on CD by Sundazed in 1995), it subsequently appeared on the British Nashville Nancy EP (Reprise REP 30086) and the French Sugar Town EP (Reprise RVEP 60097). Ironically, the image of Nancy on a motorcycle on the cover of the French record is somewhat similar to the artwork on the Country Soul Sisters release.
Nancy In London producer Lee Hazlewood also produced a 1966 version of “Step Aside” for Johnnie Ray, along with “By The Way (I Still Love You).” Nancy would interpret the latter song the following year for her Country, My Way album. Lee had recorded “By The Way (I Still Love You)” for his 1965 Reprise LP, Friday’s Child.
In the summer of 1966, “Step Aside” was released as the B-side of Sanford Clark’s The Fool ’66 / Step Aside single (Ramco 1972). With T. L. Jennings credited as the songwriter, Sanford Clark’s recording was produced by Waylon Jennings (who also recorded “Step Aside”) and Donnie Owens. Donnie Owens played guitar on many of Nancy’s Lee Hazlewood-produced Reprise recordings and appeared in the Nancy & Lee In Las Vegas television special. Lee Hazlewood wrote “The Fool” and produced many of Clark’s recordings in the 1950s and 1960s.
Emphasizing her “tough lady” persona, Nancy sings, “stomp all over you,” in the last chorus of her version (at 0:45 in the clip above). Sanford Clark’s less aggressive approach contains the lyrics “walk right over you,” in the final chorus (at 0:38 in the following clip).
As with Sanford Clark’s recording, Waylon Jennings’ version of “Step Aside” (released on the Bear Family label box set The Journey: Destiny’s Child) employs the “walk right over you” lyrics, as well as a Johnny Cash-style beat.
Some interesting tangential twists: Donnie Owens recorded his own countrified version of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” which he produced with Waylon Jennings. The song on the flip side of this single, the Owens-penned “Climbin’ The Walls,” was also recorded by Sanford Clark.
For the Country, My Way album (originally issued on vinyl by Reprise in 1967, and reissued on CD by Sundazed in 1996), Nancy explained, in the CD booklet, how she had selected the songs:
“In Nashville, there are buildings like the Brill Building in New York, where all the writers are. We just went knocking on those doors, asking for songs. The country songs are some of the best in the world!”
One of Nancy’s song choices, which appears on both the Country, My Way album (recorded in Nashville) and the U.K. Nashville Nancy compilation EP, is “Get While The Gettin’s Good.”
The Nashville Nancy EP’s title is a bit of a misnomer as it features only two Nashville sessions tracks: “Get While The Gettin’s Good” and “Help Stamp Out Loneliness.” Although the inclusion of “Step Aside” fits its country theme, Nancy’s rockin’ cover of the Knickerbockers’ “Lies” (previously released on her Boots LP) seems to be out of place on the EP.
“Get While The Gettin’s Good” was originally an early 1967 chart hit by its writer, country star Bill Anderson.
Nancy’s Country, My Way arranger, Billy Strange, commented (also in the CD booklet interviews) on Nancy’s crossover from pop to country:
“Nancy is believable. [...] It was real, from her heart and from her soul, and that is the essence of country music. She didn’t sing her songs with a country ‘twang,’ but by God, with the way she did it, she was believable.”
With her believable interpretation of “Get While The Gettin’s Good,” Nancy brings a sense of urgency to the song, along the same path as “Boots” and “Step Aside”:
“You told me that love was one big bubble
We played the game by your rules and you won
And just today well I figured out the trouble
I’ve learned to crawl before I learned to run
But, I’m gonna get while the gettin’s good”
Nancy’s determined delivery advances a powerful message of strength and autonomy:
“I’m not gonna fly in some big phony sky
On a lie that I know just can’t win
And I’m not gonna take second best
No I’ve got no use for the rest
So world you better hear what I say
‘Cause for me true love could be 100 years away
And if it is, I’ll wait”
Written by its producer, Lee Hazlewood…
…”100 Years,” b/w ”See The Little Children,” was initially released as a non-album single (Reprise 0670). Record buyers and radio listeners paid attention to Nancy’s message, as “100 Years” would ultimately reach number 69 in its six weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart and number 29 in its five weeks on Billboard’s Top 40 Easy Listening chart. “100 Years’” final week on the charts, May 4, 1968, is displayed.
Written and co-produced by Pulp’s founder and leader, Jarvis Cocker, for Nancy’s eponymous 2004 CD, “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time” has been described as striking a “blow for feminism.” Nancy imparts worldly-wise advice to women:
“He can have his space
He can take his time
Now he can kiss you where the sun don’t shine
No, baby, don’t let him waste your time”
Jarvis released his own interpretation of the song, as a 2007 single and on his first solo album, 2006′s Jarvis. From the promotional CD-single notes:
“A cautionary tale about men’s intransigence within relationships, Jarvis struts through it all telling it like it is: ‘Some skinny bitch walks by in some hotpants / And he’s running out the door.’”
Nancy, Jarvis and guitarist/co-producer Richard Hawley performed the song together on the October 1, 2004 episode of the U.K. TV talk show Friday Night With Jonathan Ross.