The 100 Greatest Songs of the Rock Era: #89: Wide Open Spaces


Dixie Chicks from Wide Open Spaces (1998)

“This is your first big chorus song,” Peggy said. “That’s surprising, because I always took you to be a big chorus guy.”

I heard what Peggy wasn’t saying. Back when we were close, she’d use musical preferences as a form of psychoanalysis. She strongly believed that people who liked songs with soaring choruses with multi-layered harmonies – songs like “Wide Open Spaces” – were the kinds of people who loved their families and had responsible jobs. People who liked songs that were less immediately “singable” contributed something to the world. I’d never been able to convince her that a person could fall into both of those categories. It’s unlikely I had a better argument for her now.

“We’ve only just gotten into the top ninety,” I said. “I think it’s safe for you to assume there will be more.”

“Glad to see you haven’t changed too much on me. This is a really good song, though. It was the first time I’d ever heard Dixie Chicks. I’d kinda written them off from their name. Who knew back then that Natalie Maines was such a badass.”

“Yeah, it took a few more years before that became obvious. ‘Wide Open Spaces’ made it clear that they were primed for mainstream pop stardom, though.”

“No argument there. She had the plaintive/spunky vocal thing down, the fiddle carries you through the song without latching it to a genre . . . and then there’s that big chorus thing.”

“And you know how much I love those. I’m just that kind of guy.”

Peggy chuckled. “You know the line that gets me in this song every time?”

I answered instantly. “The one about checking the oil.”

“Yeah, that one. How’d you get it right away?”

I knew that Peggy had had a complicated relationship with her late father. They’d always had trouble communicating, and he never seemed to understand what mattered to her. He was the kind of man who would have yelled, “Check the oil” as he was driving away rather than “I love you.”

“Educated guess. I remember an old friend once telling me that you could use musical preferences as a form of psychoanalysis.”

Featured Posts
Recent Posts