Cash, Johnny - Delia’s gone
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Cash – The autobiography of Johnny Cash
I went to Rick's [Rubin] house, and for three nights he and I sat in his living room and I sang my songs into his microphone. When I was done I was really excited. The idea of an album made that way had become very appealing to me, and now I saw that it could work, it could happen.
Rick was hedging his bets.
'Well, just don't count on it all being you and your guitar, ' he said. 'We may want to put musicians on some of these songs.'
I didn't know if that was a good idea, but I trusted him, so I kept an open mind about it. I told Lou to go ahead and negotiate a deal, and shortly thereafter I signed a contract with American Records. From there we proceeded exactly as we'd planned, with just him and me together. It was a great experience. I took my music all the way back to its roots, back to the heart, and recorded about a hundred songs. Then we listened to it all, marked out the songs that had the late-and-alone, intimate feeling we were looking for, and went to work getting them right.
We experimented with added instrumentation, but in the end we decided that it worked better with me alone.
We bore down on it that way and got our album: no reverb, no echo, no slapback, no overdubbing, no mixing, just me playing my guitar and singing. I didn't even use a pick; every guitar note on the album, which we called American Recordings, came from my thumb.
So Rick really did succeed in what he set out to do: he got the honest, unadulterated essence of Johnny Cash, whatever that is.
The songs were about anything and everything, a couple of them outright humorous, another couple so dark that they shaded into the psychotic.
Track one, 'Delia's Gone' for instance, originated in a levee camp holler or a Delta blues song about the killing of a woman; I wrote new verses to it to make it a story song told by the killer.
It was pretty strong.
To write it, I sent myself to the same mental place where I found 'Folsom Prison Blues' and, being older and wiser to human depravity, picked up on some darker secrets than I'd seen in 1956.
It turned out to be a pretty popular song with young audiences, though it made a lot of people uncomfortable.