Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: T.G. Sheppard, “War is Hell (On the Homefront Too)”

“War is Hell (On the Homefront Too)”

T.G. Sheppard

Written by Bucky Jones, Curly Putman, Dan Wilson

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

November 12, 1982


#1 (1 week)

November 20, 1982

This song makes me wish I didn’t understand English.

I love the production on “War is Hell (On the Homefront Too)” and the vocal performance is decent enough.  But it has the most repugnant lyrics imaginable.

It’s not even the plotline here, which has been used on plenty of other country hits, like “Bed of Rose’s” and “That Summer.”  It’s the open contempt that the songwriters have for the lonely woman and lusty teenager who shows up at her door.

The song is set during World War II.  In the fantasy world of the songwriters, “All the men were off to the war, and the women had nothing to do.”

First of all, no.  Women were working, not waiting around to molest the grocery delivery boy.  It’s ludicrous that this lonely woman is in such heat that she’ll take a 16 year old boy to bed without hesitation, but then she’ll put her husband’s photo face down while they do the dirty deed out of guilt and shame.  The boy, of course, has no agency here, and can only follow his own carnal instincts.   These aren’t believable characters, and they’re both miserable to be around. 

When he recorded “Lucille,” Kenny Rogers was insistent that Lucille and the narrator didn’t sleep together in the end.  That same discernment is missing here because the writers and artist were aiming for the gutter all along.  It would be excusable as the fantasy of a hormone-addled teenage boy.  There is no excuse for grown ass adults writing something this contemptable.

The only positive thing I can say is that we have completely bottomed out.   T.G. Sheppard –  and this decade of chart toppers – won’t sink any lower than this.

“War is Hell (On the Homefront Too)” gets an F

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I’ve heard all his songs on the radio over the years and never thought about it one way or the other — but it strikes me, reading these reviews and seeing the album covers, that T.G. Sheppard was the ’80s equivalent of Johnny Duncan. I don’t know if JD’s album covers were that sleazy, but the songs he recorded certainly were.

    Also, wow. Curly Putman was a co-writer on this? How disappointing. I guess that’s another example of even the greatest songwriters having their stinkers.

  2. I kinda enjoy the sleaziness of this one. I wonder if the “July hot in Georgia” line on Alabama’s “Tar Top” was a deliberate reference?

  3. Eventually, all the pond scum floating at the surface of a lake sinks to the bottom and becomes muck nobody really thinks about much anymore. Out of sight, out of mind.

    That being said, this was another of Sheppard’s hits I loved to sing along with as a kid. The melody is punchy and rollicking. I could honestly kill a night at karaoke tonight singing his chart toppers and never once need to look at the lyrics. His songs obviously had a “stickiness”for me.

    Just like the morning after a house party, however, it is best not to linger on what stickiness and mess you might be sponging away and cleaning up.

    As a historical check on Sheppard’s fantasy, I recently attended a seminar at Landscape Ontario about On the Job Training (OJT) protocols. This style of training was developed during WW II to quickly and train all the women newly entering the industrial workforce in the U.S.

    Of all the failing marks issued to chart toppers so far this decade, what percentage of them belong to ol’ TG?

  4. I do not think the comparison to Johnny Duncan was appropriate. Some of Duncan’s songs were sensuous but without the leering element in TG’s songs. Moreover, Duncan was a better vocalist, and was a serious songwriter who provided hits for the likes of Charley Pride and Bobby Goldsboro.

    Johnny pulled the plug on his career to stay home and raise his family, something I can’t see TG doing

    As for Johnny Duncan’s album covers, judge for yourself:


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