Cabbage Alley (1972)

The Meters

Cabbage Alley
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Although the song’s title seems to give the lie to it, “Cabbage Alley” is impressively sophisticated, drawing on influences like Frank Zappa, Little Feat’s Lowell George, and a slug from the loving cup of Zydeco music. The Nevilles play a piano duet that lifts the song up like a raft on an ocean swell.

Afro-Cuban rhythms work against standard Rock backbeats to make you want to twist your body into contorted positions. It’s like a Conga line-dance gone horribly astray. In a good way.

You ask, “What is a cabbage alley?” It alludes to two things. If you’re from any city, you know the refuse and stink that squats in an alley during hot, steamy summertime? Well, it all smells like cabbage (or sometimes sour milk). You get the idea. But, a cabbage alley is also an alley where men rolled dice or pitched pennies. They were good places to lose all your “cabbage,” or money, in a game of chance. And if you came up short with what you owed or you were caught cheating… well you better vamoose from town pretty lickety-splickety.

That explains the sort of nonsense lyrics. The singer starts out singing “Hey baby, hey now honey child,” over and over. But as the song progresses, although there is no action revealed, those lines change to “So long baby, so long honey child.”

Tossed in like hot peppers is an almost unintelligible background banter. You can hear the words “alley” and “Sally,” so, it’s pretty obvious you ought to know the story.

A terrifically fun tune, it comes off the album of the same name, the first disc The Meters cut for Reprise Records, which brought them to national notice.