Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown”: 6 Terrifying Things

Certain things are inherently frightening. For example: Rabid dogs, murderous clowns, and Gordon Lightfoot’s 1974 death threat Sundown.

There are 6 particularly scary-ass things about this song, so let’s talk about them in ascending levels of menace. Also, you might as well listen while you read (make sure the kids are outside).

6: The Pre-Chorus Beat

Then there’s the added–and simple–effect of what that KUH means in the context of sundown and the back stair. Is someone knocking? Are they tripping over something? Is the jig up?

To be clear, the overall message of the song (“I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you”) is what drives the terror, but it’s little touches like this that create Hall of Fame “oh no” feelings.

5: The Bass

4: The Opening Lyric

I can see her lyin’ back in her satin dress
In a room where you do what you don’t confess

Ok, now at first this could just be a dude being coy about sexy time! But listen to what’s going on with that vocal and the rest of the song. What does he dread confesssing to so much? Is “she” even alive in this image?

Also shoutout to:

I can see her lookin’ fast in her faded jeans
She’s a hard lovin’ woman, got me feelin’ mean

For somehow being one of the chiller lines in this song.

3: Gordon’s Whole Vibe

I don’t actually know that much about him as a person besides that he’s Canadian and has one of those cool, effortless barritones. The rest of the Sundown album generally feels like well made acoustic 70s rock. Dad stuff. He’s wearing sandals on the cover, for chrissakes!

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Then Sundown the song starts and those sunny North American woods go dark, pulsating red with the rage of a man scorned (or something).

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sorry for laughing at you Gordon the song is very nice

2: The Fact That It’s In Regular Rotation As Soft Rock

Instead, this incredibly somber meltdown was the #1 song in the entire country for a time in 1974. And not just in Easy Listening, though it was also #1 in that. Top spot in the Hot 100. Biggest song in the country and all over Western Civilization, while also being Easy Listening. The 70s make no sense.

As a result, today, in 2020, you can be walking around Wal-Mart or a goddamn AutoZone when suddently, it happens: That bassline starts rumbling around you. The jangly acoustic guitar synching with the flicker of fluroescent lights. Gordon’s voice filling the aisle. The music is louder in the bathroom. There’s nowhere to hide.

1: The Chorus (Obviously)

Sundown, you better take care
If I find you been creepin’ up my back stair

Very cool! Okay see you later man!

Besides being an overt threat, as previously mentioned, this chorus/refrain is constantly popping up without ever feeling expected or planned. Like the intrusive thoughts of a potentially violent man driven to madness, for example. Or the Cookie Monster! Maybe it’s a metaphor for that!

In terms of lyrics, the word “Sundown” is bringing all kinds of weird energy. There’s literal sundown–the coming of darkness and all that implies–and the “sundowning” horror of losing one’s mind to old age.

Also who’s creepin’ around the back stair? Is it the woman in the song? Her secret lover? Is he saying to take care because one of the steps is loose? Dang, Gordon Lightfoot is a thoughtful guy, nevermind to all of this. He should do a song about going to Home Depot and fixing the back stair then they can play it at the Home Depot haha we have fun.

i wanna live in a lighthouse

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