Lynyrd Skynyrd

Saturday Night Special

Song Review by

Beginning with a cymbal crash and a meaty, funky guitar riff, "Saturday Night Special" explodes off the third record from Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Top Ten Nuthin' Fancy (1975). The song is a look at handgun violence vis-à-vis crimes of passion, a socially conscious number that belies the band's image as shallow, good-timing rednecks. Vocalist Ronnie VanZant seems to be reporting from the trenches of a violent Southern locale, much as so-called gangsta rappers would 15 to 20 years hence with their own inner-city dispatches: "Big Jim's been drinkin' whiskey/And playing poker on a losin' night/Pretty soon, Big Jim starts a thinkin'/Somebody been cheatin' and lyin'/So Big Jim commences to fightin'/I wouldn't tell you no lie/And Big Jim done grab his pistol/Shot his friend right between the eyes." But unlike songs/raps that just deliver portrayals of violence, thus leaving open a possible interpretation that they romanticize it, VanZant takes a decidedly pro-gun-control stance: "Handguns are made for killin'/Ain't no good for nothin' else/And if you like your whiskey/You might even shoot yourself." It was quite a stance for a band with a largely macho, Southern following to take. Al Kooper had discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd in the band's newly adopted home of Atlanta, and signed the group to his then-new Sounds of the South imprint on MCA Records. He adds a little slap-back delay to thicken the already chunky main guitar riff. Guitarists Ed King (ex-Strawberry Alarm Clock), Gary Rossington, and Allen Collins play bluesy riffs off of each other. Drummer Artimus Pyle had just replaced Bob Burns on the drums, and plays some inventive, musical parts -- a funky pattern with a delay effect-triggered fourth upbeat, an imitation of an echoing gunshot. Gary Rossington adds some analog synthesizer parts on the insistent re-introduction, a section with the main guitar riff and a driving snare-drum roll. The song sounds lean, mean, and dark in its powerful live form on One More From the Road (1976).

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Nuthin Fancy 1975 MCA 5:09
Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991 MCA 5:08
Favorites 2008 Geffen / Universal 5:09
The Best of 1975: 20th Century Masters 2008
Various Artists
20th Century Masters
Legends of Rock 2009 Geffen / Universal Distribution / Universal