Found Sounds: Dolly Parton and Her ‘Potential New Boyfriend’

A Note About the Found Sounds Column: On occasion I write about records unknown to me that I find in a store. (Perhaps this is more of a rare column, considering it’s been 20 months since the last one.) One of my favorite things about going to a record store is adding a mysterious piece of vinyl to my overflowing “cart.” 

I love Dolly Parton. She trades in different genres, often successfully, but never loses who she is in the process. So you can imagine my excitement when I found the 12-inch for her May 1983 club hit “Potential New Boyfriend.”

Dolly PartonMy brother and I were at A-1 Record Shop in the East Village recently. In addition to stumbling onto a great Cherrelle cut, I found “Boyfriend,” which was a Parton song I’d heard in my youth but had forgotten.

“Boyfriend,” the only single from her pop/country album Burlap & Satin, was a big hit. It peaked at Number 13 on Billboard’s Dance chart — and did well on the country side of things, too.

The pressing I found is designed for the clubs that fully embraced the cut.

The A-side is the “Long Version,” a 5:46 iteration with an extended instrumental introduction. We get a lot of the nuts and bolts of the song: The strutting rhythm section, the funk guitar riffs, jingly bell synths, honky-tonk piano theatrics, and the buildup of what will become by the chorus a massive display of Parton’s territorial signals. At this point, the lady sings so beautifully and with great authority: “You’d better keep your hands off my/Potential new boyfriend.”

The melody on this song, particularly the chorus, is definitively catchy. I mean, really really catchy. It pops up in my head even when I don’t expect it. Some earworms are the worst, but in this case it’s something I’m willing to let into my brain.

The B-side Dolly Parton 2has both an instrumental version of the above extended cut and a “Short Version” that is probably the single edit. Basically, the release has a version for any occasion.

When I was doing research for this post, I found a YouTube video of Parton’s performance of the song on Solid Gold.

The description says it formed the basis for the music video, but I haven’t been able to verify that — although it seems like it considering this crappy other video I found. I can verify, though, that the dancers in the Solid Gold performance are very very excited to be there.

Similar to three other cuts on Burlap & Satin, Parton didn’t write “Boyfriend.” Instead, it was written by John Lewis Parker and Steve Kipner, who had his hand in Olivia Newton-John’s classic “Physical” and Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle,” along with dozens of other cuts. It’s an interesting basket of creative efforts, that’s for sure.

Although Parton’s version was huge in its day, another version of “Boyfriend” has been more popular in recent years, thanks to Willam Belli. That version is quite different and doesn’t live up to the glory of the original.

“Boyfriend” is often overlooked in favor of “Islands in the Stream,” Parton’s excellent duet with Kenny Rogers that was released around the same time. That’s too bad. We must never forget Parton’s ability to morph the twang into bona fide guitar-oriented disco bliss.

Dolly Parton 3

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