When I was a young teenager I used to lie in bed at night listening to Rockin' Robin's show on FM 108. He played the Diamonds, the Big Bopper, Sam Cooke, Little Richard. I adored 50s music. There was something about it, I don't know why it appealed so much to me.
Sure there was goofy stuff, Jan and Dean's "Baby Talk" was just ridiculous. "Purple People Eater" was pathetic, "Kooky, Lend me Your Comb" was worse than lame, but somehow even these novelty songs were weirdly entertaining. There was the syrupy stuff like "The Last Kiss", which made me all misty, "Tell Laura I Love Her" which made me cry and need to reach for the tissues and "Patches" which also had a similar effect. There were the dance craze songs like "Watusi" and "The Stroll" that told you how to do the dance right in the lyrics, kind of handy, I thought. I loved the spare, basic,catchy stuff like Buddy Holly's and I pined for true love listening to the lush song tapestries from the Platters. Among my favourites were the story songs, and my favourite among them was 'El Paso" by Marty Robbins.
The sweet guitar picking intro, the bouncing bass, the lilting Mexican melody, and there was Marty's golden voice, swooping and soaring through all the verses of a cowboy's painful, one sided love; transporting me to a place I've never seen, the badlands of New Mexico, the Rio Grande, cutting it's swath through rugged land. I pictured a hill overlooking Rosa's cantina in El Paso, horses tied out back, waiting. I saw this cantina as a rough, wooden watering hole where a cowboy fell under dancing Felina's spell. And in this cantina Felina flirted brazenly with a wild, young stranger. I thought of how this pained her cowboy love, spurring him to question the stranger's intentions, and killing him before he was killed himself. I saw him stealing a horse and riding for his life. I thought of Felina's shock and sadness. I wanted to smack her for being so casual with his heart. She didn't deserve such love, but she had it.
As I listened to this beautiful story I knew that I wanted someone to love me like this cowboy loved Felina, without bounds and without conditions, accepting even my badness and still loving, unable to live without me. I wanted the kind of love that would not be quenched by threat of or arrival of death. Maybe because I'm a girl I daydreamed like this and maybe boys would just think about the cowboys, horses and six shooters? Romance is something I sigh about still and say "awwww" about.
Decades later, when I listen to this song I still feel swept away to Texas. I still see them, the cowboy lover and his beloved, faithless Felina. My heart still goes out to him and I'm still mad at her, but I no longer wish for such love, I am blessed enough to have it. So blessed.
Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
Night-time would find me in Rosa's cantina;
Music would play and Felina would whirl.
Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina,
Wicked and evil while casting a spell.
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden;
I was in love but in vain, I could tell.
One night a wild young cowboy came in,
Wild as the West Texas wind.
Dashing and daring,
A drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina,
The girl that I loved.
So in anger I
Challenged his right for the love of this maiden.
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore.
My challenge was answered in less than a heart-beat;
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor.
Just for a moment I stood there in silence,
Shocked by the FOUL EVIL deed I had done.
Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there;
I had but one chance and that was to run.
Out through the back door of Rosa's I ran,
Out where the horses were tied.
I caught a good one.
It looked like it could run.
Up on its back
And away I did ride,
Just as fast as I
Could from the West Texas town of El Paso
Out to the bad-lands of New Mexico.
Back in El Paso my life would be worthless.
Everything's gone in life; nothing is left.
It's been so long since I've seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death.
I saddled up and away I did go,
Riding alone in the dark.
A bullet may find me.
Tonight nothing's worse than this
Pain in my heart.
And at last here I
Am on the hill overlooking El Paso;
I can see Rosa's cantina below.
My love is strong and it pushes me onward.
Down off the hill to Felina I go.
Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys;
Off to my left ride a dozen or more.
Shouting and shooting I can't let them catch me.
I have to make it to Rosa's back door.
Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side.
Though I am trying
To stay in the saddle,
I'm getting weary,
Unable to ride.
But my love for
Felina is strong and I rise where I'd fallen,
Though I am weary I can't stop to rest.
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.
From out of nowhere Felina has found me,
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for,
One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.