Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Randy Travis, “Too Gone Too Long”

“Too Gone Too Long”

Randy Travis

Written by Gene Pistilli

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

February 12 – February 19, 1988


#1 (1 week)

March 12, 1988

This record is absolutely spectacular.

It’s also relentlessly efficient, with an entire operatic retelling of a broken relationship being captured in under two and a half minutes. All three elements of a classic country record come together to make it happen.

It starts with the song, which features clever turns of phrase that make his dismissal of a returning lover that much more cutting: “You wanted to roam, now you’re paying the bills. You’re an old rolling stone who rolled over the hill.”

Travis could’ve delivered that line spitting nails, but his brilliance as a singer wouldn’t allow for such an approach. (Side note: It’s scary that he was this good two albums in.) The song is about a man who found love after he’s gotten his heart broken, but Travis is so over her that he’s barely suppressing a smirk while he’s singing.

That second element of his vocal delivery is perfectly supported by the third element of success here: the musicianship. This song glides along with its Western swing arrangement, and it sounds like the instruments are trying to hold back a giggle, too.  They’re loving every second of this.

It’s country music executed at the highest level by all involved, and I love every second of it, too.

“Too Gone Too Long” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I’ve always liked this one. I never had it at the top of my list of Randy Travis songs, but you make about as persuasive case for its excellence at every level as anyone could make. I’m usually not influenced by reviews but after giving this another listen just now everything you mentioned about the vocals, songwriting, musicianship, and efficiency shines and swoons with pinpoint precision. I’ll probably never have the kind of visceral connection to it needed to give it a perfect score but at the same time I’ll probably never hear it the same way again.

    Now we’ll see many reviews I’m able to respond to in the next two weeks while 6,000+ miles away from Minnesota!

    Grade: A-

      • Other direction. Visiting my fiancee in Uruguay. The country music footprint there is limited to “Achy Breaky Heart”, and a couple of songs by Shania Twain and Kenny Rogers.

  2. Travis certainly did build his house on the rock of country music surprisingly quickly with early career performances like this.

    It’s a classic for the reasons already indicated.

    Kevin has also highlighted the the variability in the quality of song selection and performance as one of the defining characteristics of ’80s country music. The hit-and-miss aspect of even the biggest stars output made the listening experience dynamic and unpredictable. It made it fun and exciting, as it also presumed a certain patience with both the fan base and the labels.

    All that changed when the new traditionalists stacked master performance after master performance so early in their young careers. They became victims of their own success which took away their time and space to experiment or even just make a small musical mistake.

    The stakes got higher, expectations for success went through the roof, and the margin for error became razor thin.

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