Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, "The Bargain Store"

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August 7, 2012

1975 | Peak: #1

It’s somewhat amazing given the subject matter of many of her early RCA records, but “The Bargain Store” holds the distinction of being the first Dolly Parton record

to be banned by several radio stations.

Apparently, the vulnerability that led her to use the metaphor that she was a bargain store was taken literally by some disc jockeys, who believed that it wasn’t  just her emotions that were up for sale.

Kinda makes you want to hit your head up against a wall, doesn’t it?

Anyway, “The Bargain Store” is exquisitely beautiful, laced with the painful melancholy that usually colors Parton’s best songwriting.   I think it’s because her personality is so uplifting and positive by nature.  When she sings a sad song, it’s somehow sadder because her optimism has her clinging to find a silver lining where one doesn’t exist.

Back when I was heavily educating myself in country music history, I bought a vinyl copy of her greatest hits album from 1975, The Best of Dolly PartonIt included so many of the hits that we’ve written about lately:  “Coat of Many Colors”, “Jolene”, “I Will Always Love You”, “Touch Your Woman”, “My Tennessee Mountain Home”, and “The Bargain Store.”

As somebody more familiar with her later pop-flavored hits, I was floored by the album.  I just couldn’t believe all of these songs had been written by the same person in such a short window of time.   With all I’ve learned about country music since, and all of the legendary music that I eventually educated myself about, I think I’m more amazed now than I even was then.

“The Bargain Store” marks the end of this particular period of Dolly Parton’s brilliant career.  She’d go on to write many more great songs and make many more great records that sold far more than her work from this period did.   But her talent would never again be so prolific to produce such an embarrassment of riches in such a short time.  This is the very best at her very best.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: A

Next: The Seeker

Previous: Love is Like a Butterfly

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  1. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Awesome read, Kevin! I especially loved the personal perspective you added in describing how you first heard this song. I always liked this song, but generally didn’t come back to it as often as I did with many of Dolly’s other songs, but this review makes me appreciate it on a much deeper level than before.

    I have a feeling I’ll be playing “The Bargain Store” A LOT over the coming week.

  2. Jordan StaceyNo Gravatar says:

    This has always been one of my favorite of Dolly’s songs, I never cared for her more pop hits later on and always loved her earlier work better. She’s still making great records to this day which is amazing.

  3. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    If this song was banned anywhere it wasn’t along the Atlantic seaboard as I heard it on stations all up and down I-95 from Orlando to Virginia

  4. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    The fact that some stations wouldn’t play this song back in 1975 speaks quite well to the fact that Dolly had an uncanny knack for getting to the heart of things, and that some were still uncomfortable about a woman doing it.

    It’s a pity that there’s nobody in Nashville getting country radio airplay who is anywhere near as daring as Dolly was back in the day (IMHO).

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