Finding new bad music for you each week is no easy challenge: mind you, as the blog is called The World’s Worst Records I could just post a Coldplay track every day for the rest of my life and fulfil my remit. However to day I bring you a track which I’ve been promising myself I would post for several months now, but something else always seemed to crop up. Today we revisit the world of casual racism; specifically casual racism is country music.
George Jones released his version of The Poor Chinee in 1968, first on the album If My Heart Had Windows and then as the B-side to the top 10 country hit Say It’s Not You. Still going strong at the grand old age of 81, Jones has frequently been referred to as the greatest living country singer. Throughout his long career he has made headlines for his drinking, his occasionally stormy relationships with women and for his violent rages as much as for his prolific recording career – he has around 120 albums to his name and has had over 150 chart hits as a solo performer or duetting with other artists. His wild lifestyle led to Jones missing many performances, earning him the nickname "No Show Jones" although, thanks to the efforts of his fourth wife, Nancy, he has been sober for over 10 years.
The Poor Chinee was co-written by Eddie Noack (1930-1978) who, in the same year, recorded the classic Psycho which has been covered by, amongst others, Elvis Costello. But the song is based – well, pretty much stolen wholesale - from a much earlier music hall song called Ching Ching. Have a look at the lyrics and you’ll see what I mean:
My name is Ching Ching, come from China,
In a big large a shipa come along here,
Wind blow very hard, kick up bublee,
Make a poor Chinaman a feel very queer;
And now the Noack/Jones version:
My namee Sin‑sin, me come from China,
Biggie‑low ship, me come along here
Wind blow hard, it kicky‑up bubble‑y,
Ship make‑a China boy feel very queer
Inspired; that must have taken seconds to re-write.
Now the 60s were a difficult period for the good ol’ US of A, it was a decade that had already been scarred by Kennedy, King, the civil rights movement, the summer of love and the Vietnam war by the time that Jones recorded this. I guess it was only 25 years after Pearl Harbour, and that just about the only oriental faces your average American saw on a regular basis were Sulu or Hop Sing. Even so you’d think that George Jones would have thought twice before committing this atrocity to vinyl. Maybe it was okay to poke fun at the funny little foreigners. Maybe it was the war that inspired him? After all, one yellow skin is pretty much the same as the other, right? Or maybe he’d taken his eye off the ball with regards to the quality of the material he was recording – after all at the time he recorded this he was divorcing wife number two and shacking up with Tammy Wynette.
Just an aside, but the pair christened their poor daughter Tamala Georgette Jones. School for her must have been hell. Also, Tammy’s D.I.V.O.R.C.E was a huge hit in the UK in 1975, the same year that she and George split –although it has been recorded back in 1968, the same year that George recorded Poor Chinee, when she was splitting from husband number two to marry George. Weird, huh?
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