Lyrically Speaking: Too Long at the Fair

I found Bonnie Raitt’s “Give It Up”† among a bunch of albums that my Mom had in her condo, shortly after she and my Dad divorced when I was about 16. The albums were significant because when they “amicably” split, one of the things they involved the kids in was the Big Record Split-Up, you know, who was going to get which album.

For some reason, I remember being the ringleader (I’ll have to ask my sisters if this was really the case!). I would hold up an album and there’d be an amicable debate before the victor got the spoils. There was Bob Dylan’s “Freewheelin’,” there was a Mamas & Papas album and one by Phil Ochs… very ’60s folky, and looking back it now, very cool.

When I found “Give It Up” among my Mom’s collection, I couldn’t remember it from the Big Record Split-Up and I had never heard of Bonnie, but she was awfully cute on the cover, very young, very hippie-chick-ish, which I was pretty into at 16. So I grabbed the album and immediately made a cassette of it (yep, those were the days!).

Her voice immediately struck me as otherworldly. She could hit the high notes, bend her voice so beautifully and make you totally believe the way she was feeling in the lyrics. And did I mention that she could really play guitar?? I found that out later, but don’t think that didn’t just make her even hotter!

The song that really got to me was “Too Long at the Fair.” There were other more rockin’ and more funky songs on the album and the whole record is really great, but she sounds so tired when she sings “Won’t You come and take me home?/I’ve been too long at the fair/And, Lord, I just can’t stand it anymore.”† “Too long at the fair” just sounded to me like, wow, you must be really beaten down. I could just totally relate to be feeling like that.

What I didn’t know at the time, was that she didn’t pen the song. It was written by a guy named Joel Zoss. Here’s Wikipedia’s take on how Bonnie ended up recording the song: “Early in the 1970s Zoss performed at Club 47 (now Passim) in Cambridge. While he was onstage, Bonnie’s manager was in the club trying to get a booking for her. The manager heard Zoss sing “Too Long at the Fair.” After the show the manager asked for a tape of the song to play for Bonnie.”

There are so many lines in the song I’d love to know their meaning, but that’s part of the greatness of it: “Well, you can give my soul to Abraham/Give my soul to Saul/Give my bones to Canada/My teeth they don’t hurt at all.”

If you haven’t heard “Give It Up,” please track it down. I believe it’s Bonnie’s best album ever. She is someone who I really don’t think gets enough credit… maybe because she didn’t write many of her own songs, but she’s an amazing singer and an amazing guitar player and deserves to be heard.

For more Lyrically Speaking entries, click HERE.

Too Long at the Fair

Jesus cried, wept and died
I guess he went up to heaven
I’ve been downtown such a long long time
I’ll never make it home by seven

Won’t you come and take me home
I’ve been too long at the fair
And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore

I went down to Jason’s
Walked till my feet were sore
But I never knew what laughing was
Till you walked out the door

Won’t you come and take me home
I’ve been too long at the fair
And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore

You can give my soul to Abraham
You can give my soul to Saul
And give my bones to Canada
My teeth they don’t hurt at all
I don’t know who made the highway
But I guess that’s just my pride
And I have heard the Prince of Darkness
On his charger ride

The silver blade is gleaming
The scales are in his hand
I swear the night is falling
Don’t you lose another man

Won’t you come and take me home
I’ve been too long at the fair
And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore
And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2Kf-BZw1eI

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  1. Joel Zoss says:

    I wrote and publish “Too Long at the Fair,” originally recorded by Bonnie Raitt. While I appreciate your posting the lyrics, THE LYRICS YOU HAVE POSTED CONTAIN SERIOUS ERRORS. THOSE WHO HAVE USED THE LYRICS YOU HAVE POSTED HAVE MADE SERIOUS ERRORS. Please replace the lyrics you have posted in their entirety with the correct lyrics, which I am pasting in below. Thank you! My best, Joel Zoss

    HERE ARE THE CORRECT LYRICS:

    TOO LONG AT THE FAIR

    Jesus cried, wept and died
    I guess he went up to heaven
    I’ve been downtown such a long long time
    I’ll never make it home by seven
    Won’t you come and take me home
    I’ve been too long at the fair
    And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore

    I went down to Jason’s
    Walked till my feet were sore
    But I never knew what laughing was
    Till you walked out the door
    Won’t you come and take me home
    I’ve been too long at the fair
    And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore

    You can give my soul to Abraham
    You can give my soul to Saul
    And give my bones to Canada
    My teeth they don’t hurt at all
    I don’t know who made the highway
    But I guess that’s just my pride
    And I have heard the Prince of Darkness
    On his charger ride

    The silver blade is gleaming
    The scales are in his hand
    I swear the night is falling
    Don’t you lose another man
    Won’t you come and take me home
    I’ve been too long at the fair
    And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore
    And Lord I just can’t stand it anymore

    © 1971 Joel Zoss
    Catalan Publishing Company/ ASCAP

  2. Tod W says:

    I’ve loved this song for a long time, and also know it from Bonnie’s Give It Up. I agree it is such a sad, evocative tune. I’ve never seen a live version of it and I’m really moved to see this video; her vocals are beautiful and spontaneous here. Thanks for posting it.

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