Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Rosanne Cash, “My Baby Thinks He’s a Train”

“My Baby Thinks He’s a Train”

Rosanne Cash

Written by Leroy Preston


#1 (1 week)

November 14, 1981

After breaking through with the indisputably brilliant “Seven Year Ache,” Rosanne Cash topped the country chart again with “My Baby Thinks He’s a Train.”

Sporting an arrangement that would’ve made her dad’s Tennessee Two proud, Cash puts in a game performance that pushes her a little bit further vocally than she was quite ready for in 1981.  Cash reaches for a lonesome whistle sound that is overly strained to the point that she sounds like she’s doing a bit.

It’s a reminder that Seven Year Ache was recorded before Cash had become successful, 

You can hear something gestating here that would become fully realized by King’s Record Shop, but she’s not there yet.  Unsurprisingly, this is one of those records that she worked on in her live show over the years.  As this 1988 performance demonstrates, she would’ve knocked this one out of the park if she’d recorded it further down the road.

In its original form, it’s a couple of steps down from the No. 1 singles before and after it, both of which were home runs.  We’ll cover the next one in early 1982.

“My Baby Thinks He’s a Train” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. There’s some fun wordplay that elevates parts of the song, and at least one that only scrapes by due to nostalgia, but yes, she wasn’t entirely there yet. Still a wonderful single and one of her best, but not top tier.

  2. A good example of how elusive and distant the past can be when artist’s overconfidently assume that to touch it all they need do is reach for it. The metaphor and musicianship is well ahead of Cash vocally.

    If you really want to deep-dive into analyzing this early hit, you can here how conflicted she was yet with her own past.

  3. I guess I would have to mildly dissent with others here. This is a very good record of Rosanne’s, even as it admittedly parallels the “locomotive” arrangements of her father’s best 1958-1972 hits. I’d match it up against a lot of what country radio plays these days any day of the week.

  4. I might have blinders on here due to how much i love the “Seven Year Ache” record. I really like this song and now that i read this noticed her strain on her vocals. I guess it didn’t bother me but can see your criticism as valid. Still love cranking this one and playing air guitar. My fiance has caught me many a times pretending to play fiddle and playing guitar lol

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