This Day in Music History (Sort Of) – Nicole & Jason Evans Groth on Bonnie & Clyde

It was this day in 1934 that notorious criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot to death by Texas and Louisiana state police while driving a stolen car near Sailes, Louisiana. We asked our favorite partners in crime, Nicole and Jason Evans Groth from the band Whippoorwill to tell us about some of their favorite rock & roll outlaw couples.

Today we remember the deaths, by unexpected hail of bullets early in the morning (when you maybe feel that way behind your eyes a little anyway because you decided to mix beer and (white) wine and gin and then (red) wine the night before), of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, otherwise known as Bonnie and Clyde, the crime duo that made America swoon at the romance of a life of crime, while also conveniently ignoring the thirteen people they killed over the course of their career. As we all know, this is a perfectly acceptable suspension of disbelief. Example: Jackson of rap group Grand Buffet once, on stage in Detroit, MI, claimed an equal distrust of both Republicans and Democrats, stating “Yeah, Republicans are responsible for a lot of unnecessary death, but Don Henley is a democrat and his last solo album killed 40,000 people.” What I mean is, and I think a lot of us who vote on that side of the ballot know, that simply voting for a Democrat does not mean they won’t be just as nasty and corrupt as their Republican counterparts, but if they’re good Democrats, they’re going to make us feel they’re not (and they certainly won’t embarrass us as much as a ridiculous Republican), and feeling good about it is 9/10s of the equation (I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it is). Bonnie and Clyde made America feel good about crime, mixing that adrenaline rush of doing something bad with the public’s undying love of celebrities and their sex lives and, somehow, tying in the American dream of the underdog winning.

It is now very easy to bring rock and roll into this discussion. If it’s good, it makes you feel like you’ve done something bad. Its very name refers to taboo sexual activity in the back of a beautiful, American made, chrome-heavy, steel-framed car. And, while everyone can (and should) play it, it’s also fun to be on the fan side of a rock band — to cheer along the group in the garage to great fame, despite the obstacles. And, of course, being on the fan side of rock and roll means not having to actualize the (sometimes) real dirt of being in a band (bad crowds, interpersonal conflict, interviews, touring, addiction, pressure, business, you know, all the stuff that actually breaks bands up) — or, in other words, the 13 killed and the death by hail of bullets. Instead, one can romanticize it all, and should — it’s all part of the circle.

Bonnie was, of course, a woman. Her being a woman prompted America to pay attention because crime, like rock and roll now and in the past, was a boys’ club. Her presence as part of this duo was inspiring because it wasn’t expected. The implied creative and sexual tension was romantic, and identifiable to people in love all over the country. Their thrilling life was both longed for and compared to. Certainly some wished to be them, while others wanted to simply live vicariously through them while taking comfort in knowing that, unlike their heroes, there would not be the chance of an ambush when they woke up the next morning.

Male/female duos in popular music, when great, have the magic of the Bonnie and Clyde story. Romance, mystery, sexual tension, collaboration, fun, sadness, heartbreak, redemption can all be part of the equation. And unlike real-life relationships, those feelings are captured and replayable forever.

Nicole and I picked these as some of our favorite examples of a female/male duo that had inspired us. Here goes:

1) Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot — “Bonnie and Clyde”
Of course. And Serge and Brigitte typify the taboo, romance, and sexual tension in question.

2) Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibb — “Guilty”
This sexual tension is a little smoother and dressed completely in white, but listen to what they’re saying — they approach the problem of their taboo relationship head-on, and make us all wish we were relaxing poolside with our lover, a word we only say in this context.

3) X – “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline”
A disturbing and dark tale that deals with the worst side of a male-dominated society, made darker when both Exene and John Doe belt it together.

4) Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers — “Islands in the Stream”
There’s a reason this song is long-lasting — it’s awesome. Also written by Barry Gibb, This guy knew the deal.

5) Prince and Sheena Easton — “U Got the Look”
Hyper-sexual, playful, empowering — everyone wants to be both of these people as often as possible.

(no video because Prince hates the internet)

6) June and Johnny — Anything, really, but let’s go with “Jackson”
This speaks for itself — the ultimate rock and roll couple.

7) Stephen Malkmus and Elastica — “Unheard Music”
An X cover from the Suburbia soundtrack that adds a 90s level of sex to John Doe and Exene’s already highly sexualized performance.

8. Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra — “Some Velvet Morning”
We played this song as a duo, the first time we ever played as a duo, in 2003, opening for Okkervil River in a warehouse in Bloomington. Lee and Nancy are amazing partners in crime.

9) Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks — “Whenever I Call You Friend”
This is our go-to karaoke song. It’s exciting. It’s dangerous. It’s smooth.

10) Mickey and Sylvia — “Love is Strange”
This song has such a sexy guitar line, not to mention the sex oozing out of both Sylvia’s and Mickey’s vocal cords. Undeniable. It’s no wonder that the Dirty Dancing franchise had to steal it from us all. It’s time we took it back.

11) Shirley and Lee — “Let the Good Times Roll”
How can one go without mentioning this? Heavy New Orleans sultry sex. Bonnie and Clyde were killed in Louisiana. This recording is arguably one of the templates for sexy female/male duos of the future.

Nicole and Jason Evans Groth share a last name and play together in Whippoorwill, a band that has existed since the early 2000s and has yet to create an online presence. For Whippoorwill information email Jason at jgroth@gmail.com.

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