August 1, 2008
Written by Conway Twitty
Conway Twitty was a pop star first, as he scored a major hit in the late fifties with “It’s Only Make Believe.” The signature voice is there, though it’s heavily influenced by Elvis Presley. But even back then, a full decade before he successfully switched genres, Twitty was writing country songs.
Though most of his later hits were penned by others, Twitty wrote some of his biggest early country hits, like “Hello Darlin’” and “Linda on My Mind.” Whether he was grieving over a woman who left him or cheating on the one who slept by his side, there was always a deep concern for the feelings of the woman involved in the song.
This was especially apparent in his sultry hit from 1973, “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” which was so sexually charged that some country stations were reluctant to play it. The song find him having relations with a woman he’s watched from afar, and the lyrics would be racy on today’s country radio scene. So you can imagine how listeners must’ve reacted hearing the mild-mannered country star sing, in a coarse almost-whisper, “I don’t know what I’m saying as my trembling fingers touch forbidden places.” I’ve often wondered if R&B group B2K stole the rhythm of their grinding hit “Bump Bump Bump,” from the “Bum Bum Bum” that Twitty escalates throughout the course of the record.
But there’s still a tenderness to the lyric, and part of the song’s controversy stemmed from misinterpretation of the lyrics. When he sings “I can tell you’ve never been this far before,” many assumed that he was with a woman much younger than him, and he was her first time. From that perspective, Twitty would sound nauseatingly lecherous.
But those listeners missed the key line, “I don’t know and I don’t care what made you tell him you don’t love him anymore.” There might be some adultery going on, but that’s about it, and her motivation seems to be looking for real love, not lust, and thinking she’s found it with the man she’s crossing the line with. What makes this a love song, rather than just a cheating song, is the final verse: “As I take the love you’re giving,” he sings, “I can feel the tension building in your mind. You’re wondering if tomorrow, I’ll still love you like I’m loving you tonight.”
He answers, “You have no way of knowing, but tonight will only make me love you more.” It’s a startlingly genuine display of emotion, and when the thoughts in his mind are paired with the action going on, what could have been a tawdry exercise becomes a pure expression of love.
“You’ve Never Been This Far Before” is the the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.