The first time I knowingly heard of Chekhov’s gun, it was in a song. The monumentally important Russian playwright used the gun as a mean to articulate the importance of efficiency in dramatic storytelling, writing, “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” The way Peter Case put it in his 1989 song “Put Down the Gun” was as follows: “I don’t want to swear it/ But it’s something that I’ve heard/ A gun in the first act/ Always goes off in the third.” So I came to my knowledge of an important guideline for fiction through a late-eighties rock song. I can live with that.
“Put Down the Gun” was the lead single from the fabulously titled The Man with the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar, Case’s second solo album. Before signing his own name to records, Case was known–to the degree he was known–as the leader of the Plimsouls, the New Wave band that had its greatest success with “A Million Miles Away,” especially after it landed on the Valley Girl soundtrack. I’m fairly certain Guitar was expected to be Case’s breakthrough. Loaded with guests, including T-Bone Burnett and Ry Cooder, the album was lean, smart and earthy, the soundtrack to the best bar night imaginable. It never did really take off, and when I listen to it now, I still can’t figure out why. Probably the same indiscernible reason the various great albums from Tommy Keene never made significant headway on the college (or any) charts.
The whole album is excellent, but “Put Down the Gun” is the song that is the stickiest for me, the one that occasionally springs up in my head and won’t shake loose until I pull it up for a listen. In fact, I think I’d best click on that link right now.
Listen or download –> Peter Case, “Put Down the Gun”
(Disclaimer: It appears to me that the Neo-Traditionalist Guitar release is out of print as a physical object. It can be bought digitally but who knows if Case sees a single dime of that. I know for sure that the hard-working proprietor of your favorite local, independently-owned record store gets no economic boost of that sort of purchase. There are plenty of other fine Case releases that can be ordered from the brick and mortar shop. I’m not actually trying to deprive anyone of deserved dollars. Believe me, I’ll gladly remove the track from the Interweb if I’m contacted by someone without authority over the song requesting exactly that action.)