Out of his twenty-five Top twenty chart entries, John Conlee wrote only two songs. The first was his first top five record, “Rose Colored Glasses”, and the second was “Backside Of Thirty” – which we will have a chance to hear today. The song appeals to some reality. The characters’ trials in the song made me think of some of the other men I had read about and an interesting trend starting to emerge. Many of history’s fast coursers suffered setbacks at about age thirty that almost hit them out of public life and success.
“Backside of Thirty”, Background
“Backside of Thirty” was John Conlee’s third country hit and second number one on the country chart. The single stayed at number one for a single week and spent a total of eleven weeks on the country chart. The song was written over three years before it became a hit. It needed two separate attempts to attain this status. In 1976, Conlee secured his recording contract with ABC Records through Dick Kent, his fellow disc jockey. When he released three singles by July of 1977, “Backside Of Thirty” was one of these but none of them charted. In an extremely rare move, ABC Records decided to re-issue “Backside Of Thirty” sometime in 1978. Luckily, it soared all the way to the summit of Billboard’s country singles chart on May 5, 1979, marking Conlee’s second of his seven career number one hits.
Since John Conlee had not been married up to that point, the song had not been composed around a separation story. Instead, it was based on relationships that did not work out for him. “Backside of Thirty” is about a working man, divorced, and is trying to redeem a life for himself. His dreams of family life come impossible after his particularly spiteful divorce. He seeks the solace in the bottle when his ex-wife and son left him. When friends ask him about how things are going, he puts up his boldness, saying things are fine. In the end, he admits that his eyes tell a story that lies cannot hide. The incident gave him different emotions. However, from a writer’s view, it was just a remark.
I’m on the backside of thirty and back on my own
An empty apartment don’t feel like a home
On the backside of thirty, the short side of time
Back on the bottom with no will to climb.
In life, when you are already in your 30s, you are no longer the youngest person in the room. The freshness may have worn off and you feel too old to be the new hunk on the block but too young to be a knowledgeable professional. You may sometimes feel you are stuck somewhere. The good news, however, is that for those that persevere, there is a likelihood of not only getting back up after the fall but to actually stand taller.
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Backside of Thirty, John Conlee