A Bottle and a Girl Who’s Just Fourteen

‘Mexicali Blues’ is a song from Bob Weir’s 1972 Ace solo album that, like the rest of the material on that record, was de facto by the Grateful Dead.  It appears on the 1974 Skeletons from the Closet and The Best of Grateful Dead compilation and the Grateful Dead played this song 433 times in concert, making it their thirteenth most popular song.  ‘Mexicali Blues’ was written by Bob Weir and lyricist John Perry Barlow and this was the first songwriting collaboration for Weir and Barlow.  Barlow said that Weir had an idea for a cowboy song and he asked Barlow to write the lyrics after Robert Hunter declined.  Weir would soon switch to using Barlow rather than Hunter for the bulk of his songwriting.  The song is about a cowboy who took a trip to Mexico and while he was there, he did some crazy things.  The cowboy had a three days ride from Bakersfield and when he arrives in Mexicali, he meets a girl named Billie Jean.  He falls under her spell, and she tells him to shoot this stranger.  She says that the stranger will take her away unless he uses his gun to prevent it.

This song deals with sex, violence, and money and in it a beautiful girl that just came into town takes the cowboy up to her room and lets him know that he can do anything he chooses.  The woman is a fourteen-year-old prostitute and Weir has to pay her for sex, which foreshadows the violence later in the song.  Billie Jean manipulates the cowboy into killing a man, which he gets sent to the gallows for.  He shoots and kills the stranger and flees into the desert rather than face hanging for his crime.  The city of Mexicali, Mexico is at the northern extremity of Baja California State, and it is adjacent to Calexico, California.  Bakersfield, a city in southern California, owes its name to one of its founders, Col. Thomas Baker, who was also a U.S. Senator. Baker tried to put in a waterway from Kern Lake to San Francisco Bay in the early 1860’s.

Laid back in an old saloon, with a peso in my hand
Watching flies and children on the street
And I catch a glimpse of black-eyed girls who giggle when I smile
There’s a little boy that wants to shine my feet
And it’s three days ride from Bakersfield
And I don’t know why I came
I guess I came to keep from payin’ dues
So instead I’ve got a bottle and a girl who’s just fourteen
And a damned good case of the Mexicali blues

Is there anything a man don’t stand to lose
When the devil wants to take it all away
Cherish well your thoughts, keep a tight grip on your booze
‘Cause thinking and drinking are all I have today

She said her name was Billie Jean and she was fresh in town
I didn’t know her stage-line ran from hell
She had raven hair, a ruffled dress, a necklace made of gold
And all the French perfume you’d care to smell
She took me up in to her room and whispered in my ear
Go on my friend, do anything you choose
Now I’m payin’ for those happy hours I spent there in her arms
With a lifetime’s worth of the Mexicali blues

And then a man rode in to town, some thought he was the law
Billie Jean was waiting when he came
She told me he would take her if I didn’t use my gun
And I’d have no one but myself to blame
I went down to those dusty streets, blood was on my mind
I guess that stranger hadn’t heard the news
‘Cause I shot first and killed him, Lord he didn’t even draw
And he made me trade the gallows for the Mexicali blues

Is there anything a man don’t stand to lose
When he lets a woman hold him in her hands
You just might find yourself out there on horseback in the dark
Just riding and running across those desert sands

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 45 where this week’s theme is bottle.

4 thoughts on “A Bottle and a Girl Who’s Just Fourteen

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