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I'm referring to All the Way from Memphis (1973) by Mott the Hoople. The lyrics are here. I think we can all feel a bit unhappy about the unfortunate use of the word "Spade" but I don't see any evidence it was meant with ill-feeling, or that it was a really pejorative word at the time.

Anyway, I have been intrigued why Ian (or "the protagonist" / "the auteur") says he felt "so ashamed".

It appears he left some "electric junk" in Oreole, then started out in the direction of Memphis, realised he had forgotten some stuff, headed back for his "junk", rang Information and eventually an African American, maybe in a Lost Property Office, then said "Rock and rollers - you're all the same. Man, that's your instrument".

Slightly embarrassed at one's forgetfulness, OK. But "so ashamed"?

PS: There's also a puzzle about "Oreole". There doesn't appear to be a town with this name in the USA. There are various Orioles, one not too far from Memphis (but it might have been far from Memphis: the journey back is said to have taken "a month", though this could be poetic licence).

Mott the Hoople's best-known tour of the US was in 1974, so this song's lyrics were too early for that. However, from Hunter's Wikip page, it appears that they did tour the US before that: "they could not sustain their commercial appeal, and their American tours were slow in building a following."

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    I think also the shame is about his pretensions as a "rock star", which is what a lot of the other lyrics are about. "You look like a star/but you're still out on parole!". And the descriptions of the guitar come gradually down to earth - it starts as "my six-string razor" , "my axe", but then "my guitar", "electric junk" , "that's your instrument" – Angst Jan 8 at 13:10
  • That's an excellent interpretation, and as you say consistent with the overall theme. Maybe he used one of these "pretentious" terms when referring to it in the lost property office. – mike rodent Jan 8 at 20:13
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I think also the shame is about his pretensions as a "rock star", which is what a lot of the other lyrics are about. "You look like a star/but you're still out on parole!".

And the descriptions of the guitar come gradually down to earth - it starts as "my six-string razor" , "my axe", but then "my guitar", "electric junk" , "that's your instrument".

So "I felt so ashamed" is a key moment : it's where he sees himself through the eyes of the folks in the lost property office as this pretentious rocker, and then the rest of the song he's enjoying playing with the idea of "people think life as a rock star is like this, but actually it's like that". Actually, lyrics earlier in the song are about that too, but you can imagine the guitar incident being the pivot for the song.

'Wikip entry for 'All the way from Memphis' has it that Oriole is Oriole, Kentucky, and the source quoted has it that it was Mick Ralphs' guitar.

With success came some typical rock-star problems. Like gear being lost during overseas tours. 'All the Way From Memphis' chronicles an incident in which Mick Ralphs' guitar was shipped to a different state than the one in which the band was playing. It's also a slam on rock-star excess, something the somewhat struggling Mott the Hoople still knew little about.

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  • Yes, this is why I was intrigued by the line: the line is, as you say, "pivotal", i.e. what the song's about. Thanks too for tracking down the truth about the real Oriole. – mike rodent Jan 9 at 8:25
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It's clear that the "junk" he left was his guitar and it's only when the guy gives him a hard time for losing it ("Man, that's your instrument") that he realizes how stupid he was to leave it. That's why he's ashamed.

It seems like it took him a month before he got round to driving to back Oreole, or that it was a month before the band passed through there again. He's not claiming the drive to Oreole took a month.

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