Whoa-Yeah! The JudyBats, “Margot Known As Missy” (1992)

In “Margot Known As Missy” by The JudyBats we can observe the intersection of two small but important genres that really need to intersect somewhere: the song with better-than-words wordless vocalizing (as in Nilsson’s version of “Everybody’s Talkin’”) and the song of the male perplexed by the lesbianism of the female he’s stuck on (as in The Amazing Rhythm Aces’ “Emma Jean”).[1] I say the genres need to intersect because, on the one hand, a great wordless vocalizing ought to have a deeply perplexing theme, and on the other hand, to express a deep perplexity you sometimes have to depart from regular language.

Most striking in the Nilsson track is the sense of sincerity in his vaguely hornlike plainting, whaa wha whaa.

“Everybody’s Talkin'”

It’s like the screen of the words has been pulled aside and a meaning that was always pushing against them is now blowing through direct. (What if you could get that effect while singing the words? No one did that better than Otis Redding, starting with “Pain In My Heart”.) Admittedly we depend on the surrounding words to feel what the plainting is about. But the words are about a weird situation, so we know they call for this complement.

Well then: how weird does it feel if the Beautiful One doesn’t warm to your kind? In “Emma Jean,” The Amazing Rhythm Aces cope with the situation with playfully clumsy lyrics, a half-comprehending narrator, and a “half-tropical” musical style.

“Emma Jean”

But this only goes halfway. The JudyBats have come up with a more radical outburst aimed at one Margot, a.k.a. Missy, who went to the big city for cooking school and, apparently, a girlfriend. The hook is an oddly exuberant sound close to “Whoa-yeah! Whoa-yeah!” which in the context (not a rodeo) suggests “Stop-don’t! (What about my needs?)/OK-you-go! (Be a star on your own terms! [Yeah, right!])”

“Margot Known As Missy”

More importantly, it’s just a great occasion to yodel a riff, especially when it comes at the middle high point of the track after you’ve been introduced to all the song content, you’re satisfied you’ve gotten a strong dose of rock ‘n’ roll already,[2] and yet you’re daring to think there might be another level to take it to.

That such a college-y song as “Margot Known As Missy” has this sub-semantic high point is just the sort of  incongruity one should expect from a college-y band like The JudyBats, who  came out of UT-Knoxville.[3] Score one for UT-Knoxville.


[1] For older points of reference for these genres, how about Blind Willie Johnson, “Dark Was The Night Cold Was The Ground” (1927), and George Hannah, “The Boy In The Boat” (1930), respectively?

[2] Including a nice bit of wrongfooting at the start.

[3] There’s another sub-semantic highlight in “Is Anything” on the same album (Down In The Shacks Where The Satellite Dishes Grow).


About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
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