Badass

by Tom Swift

It’s strange to have a song stuck in your head when you don’t know the last time you heard the song, you haven’t before especially liked the song, and, in a way, the song predates you.

In fact, Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” was recorded the year I was born. The following year it became the number one song in America. It ranked second on the charts for all of 1973.

Here I am at the end of a weekday more than four decades later, for reasons passing understanding, singing the refrain under my breath.

Upstairs, downstairs, backyard, shower.

C’mon, sing it with me. You know you want to.

And it’s bad, bad Leroy Brown/The baddest man in the whole damned town/Badder than old King Kong/And meaner than a junkyard dog

In truth, this is the only part of the song I know — the same part everyone knows.

Needing to expand my mindless lyrical range, I looked up the rest of the words. Turns out, the song tells a decent story, that of a man who commands respect — maybe even fear — all over town by way of his size (he is what the ladies call a “Treetop Lover”) and his manner (“meaner than a junkyard dog”). Leroy thinks, with his money (flashing his fancy clothes and his “Eldorado”) and his ability to intimidate both genders, that he can do and say whatever he wants. He thinks nothing, for one thing, of flirting with a married woman.

Eventually, Leroy gets his comeuppance. The woman’s husband takes Leroy aside and has more than a word with him.

Well the two men took to fighting/And when they pulled them off the floor/Leroy looked like a jigsaw puzzle/With a couple of pieces gone

As I said, I have never before voluntarily played the song — never before thought “I’m in the mood for Leroy.” So why is this song coming up for me? At all? Right now? So strongly?

I ask such questions because, of course, the universe is all about me.

Seriously, I can only truly view matters through my own lens … it’s all I got — to the extent I even have that.

I don’t have a great answer, which is why the question is, to me, worthwhile. Possibly I am being bad? Hmmm. Though capable, I have been pretty good of late! My demeanor doesn’t much intimidate — I don’t think — not even my own dog is intimidated by me.

Well, now that I think of it, sometimes I think I possibly present has having myself more to together than I do — I sometimes articulate myself well enough that I may sound smarter than I am. Maybe there is something “intimidating” there but it seems to be overthinking things a bit. Seems too literal of an interpretation to be plausible. The psyche is far more interesting than that. Most of the time, frankly, I do not have the means or the manner to be a modern-day Leroy …

… maybe instead there is a warning in here about the shortness of life. Croce himself died not long after this song was released. He would not have been able to play it live much …

… where I go, though, what seems truer to me, is I wonder more about tone. I can always use reminders to take life less seriously. Croce delivers the seemingly serious tale of bad Leroy in an upbeat, almost childlike, sing-song sound. Despite the adult themes — and at the time it was very rare, even controversial, to use curse words like “whole damned town” in a song that played on the radio — to be sure, “99 Problems” didn’t play in the background at the shopping mall — this is a fun tune.

Not sure. Maybe clarity will come. Or maybe it won’t. In the meantime:

And it’s bad, bad Leroy Brown