This cover of the Johnny Cash song was heavily inspired by the 80s version done by Wall of Voodoo. You can hear their version here. We did our version before Social Distortion did theirs. I like ours better. Social Distortion made more money from theirs.
Rod (singer) brought in the Wall of Voodoo tape and I came up with a keyboard sound that was close, but not too close. As with most of the keyboard sounds on these songs, mine were squashed pretty hard in recording and mixdown.
I recall pushing very hard for a click when we did these sessions and boy howdy did we fight it on this track. I think we eventually gave up, but not after some heated discussion. I should have let it go. One of the things I wanted from us was a tight sound that would help us sound somewhat professional. That was a loaded idea back then, as some in the band didn’t want us to sound too “commercial” or “pop”. I don’t think we had much to worry about.
This track got us some airplay on a locals only radio show and was a crowd favorite. We played a show at the Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University) and in the slow parts of the song had a 100 person mosh circle. It was crazy. We played a show at a club in Salt Lake called The Zephyr Club on a weeknight for money. We weren’t a very good bar band. We did better when we played a set at a show. So at the club, we had to play three sets about an hour each, with two breaks. Nobody was there. We repeated our first set and when we played “Ring of Fire”, the owner of the club got on the dance floor and poured a ring of Bacardi 151 on the floor. He took a large shot into his mouth, pulled out a lighter and sprayed fire onto the floor, dancing around the ring of fire. It may have been the coolest crowd response we got to this song, even though there were only about 7 people at the club.
Of all the tracks, this one proved the most difficult thus far to get a solid low end without sounding too ridiculous. I’m learning a few tricks, having never had much experience with an expander. The results aren’t too bad. I wish I had the source tracks. We shoulda bought the reels. Grrrr.