“Somewhere Between Right and Wrong”
Earl Thomas Conley
Written by Earl Thomas Conley
#1 (1 week)
December 18, 1982
Earl Thomas Conley’s return to No. 1 is with a record that is nothing short of spectacular.
When embarking on this eighties journey, I knew there would be some unexpected discoveries. I’m familiar with a handful of Earl Thomas Conley singles, but they’re all midtempo or straight up ballads. I was completely unprepared for the cornucopia of pleasures that is “Somewhere Between Right and Wrong.”
Conley’s flawless vocal powers through an energetic production that combine for the brassiest country record this side of the Mavericks. But it would all be for naught without the brilliantly constructed lyric.
After wading through the stale adolescent fantasies of his fading Urban Cowboy peers, Conley arrives with a tale about two fully realized adult characters who are navigating complex emotional feelings for each other while wrestling with the gray shades of morality that surround their situation.
I love the woman in this song. She has agency. She’s cheating on an absentee husband that she hasn’t quite left yet. The ring on her finger makes it wrong, but the empty marriage it represents makes it right. She’s stuck between the two.
She said, “I can be had but I can’t be bought,And I can be bad Lord if I don’t get caught. But I’d rather be loved or left alone Than be here in the middle somewhere between right and wrong.”
Her own journey would’ve been enough to make for a compelling record. Even with a man singing the words, a woman saying “You know I never was the kind to spread it around, but I’ll let you get to me as long as you don’t let me down” on country radio in 1982 stands out. But the song is from the perspective of the man she’s finding comfort with, and it’s creating a moral dilemma for him too:
It’s her kind of love keeps me coming back time after timeJust like a beautiful song I can’t get off my mind But I worry a lot about love you have to wait on And I got second thoughts about a woman who is always gone
They’re both stuck somewhere between right and wrong, having a damn good time as the warning signs flash around them. The record captures the rush and the regret, and one doesn’t follow the other. They remain intertwined.
When we see Conley again, he’ll be kicking off his string of sixteen consecutive No. 1 hits. I knew this was coming, but for the first time, I can’t wait for it to arrive.
“Somewhere Between Right and Wrong” gets an A.
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