You Can't Blame the Train

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"You Can't Blame the Train" is a song written by gold record winning American songwriter and vocalist Terri Sharp.[1] It was originally released in 1987 as a single by Don McLean and was covered in 1991 as a single release by the family country group The Hollanders.

Don McLean version[edit]

"You Can't Blame the Train"
Single by Don McLean
from the album Love Tracks
Released December 1987
Format 7"
Genre Country
Length 3:07
Label Capitol Records
Writer(s) Terri Sharp
Producer(s) Dave Burgess
Don McLean singles chronology
"He's Got You"
"You Can't Blame the Train"
"Love in My Heart"

"You Can't Blame the Train" is a single by American singer and songwriter Don McLean. The song was released in 1987 as the lead single from McLean's first studio album in five years, Love Tracks.[2] Written by Terri Sharp, McLean would also record another song from Sharp for the same album, titled "Eventually".


After having no record contract for five years, McLean returned with the Love Tracks album. The single, released only for radio-play, peaked at #49 on the American Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart, faring better than McLean's previous 1987 single "He's Got You", which had peaked at #73. "You Can't Blame the Train" was McLean's second highest charting song on the chart, after a hit cover of the Roy Orbison song "Crying" in 1980.[3][4]

In an early September 1988 edition of The Milwaukee Journal, a daily morning broadsheet printed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, McLean spoke of the song "Two songs from the LP are already on the country charts, "You Can't Blame the Train" and "Love in My Heart". One has been No. 40 and the other got to No. 60. So we are starting to crack the country charts, which is not an easy thing to do. There is a lot of competition."[5]

In late March 1997, an article based on Don McLean was published in an issue of Daytona Beach News-Journal. In the article, the history of McLean was given, where the song was mentioned, stating “McLean even meandered between roots rock and R&B with “You Can't Blame the Train”.[6]

In the 2012 book "Winning Retirement" by Greg Taylor, the lyrics to the chorus of the song was used as the leading quote for chapter two of the book.[7]


The song was written in 1986.[8]

Writer Terri Sharp later commented "I wrote the song when I was on the way to a gig in Rosenberg, Texas by a Southern Pacific train. The trains in Texas take very long. During the journey the level crossing gate was coming down and there was a little red car in front of me. They scooted under the gate and got across the tracks. I was amazed and also very happy I hadn't had to watch a tragedy. As the journey was long I had time to write the song. I usually find paper or napkins in my car when a song starts "coming". I thought that if the train had hit the little red sports car the family would have probably tried to sue Southern Pacific, but it wouldn't have been the train's fault. I then came up with the song’s chorus. When the gates are all down and the signals are flashing and the whistle is screaming in vain…etc. I then thought about how I tried to blame some of my personal woes with men on the men, but then I applied the railway theory and voila... I had to get off the damn tracks in that way also. I was signed by Hank Jr. to Bocephus Music in 1987 because of that song and another called "Eventually", which Don would also record. Dave Burgess was the administrator for my and Hank's catalogue and he was producing a record for Don - that's how the recording happened."[9]


The single was released in America only, via Capitol Records, on 7" vinyl only, where it was a promotional only single,[10] aimed at the radio-play within the country music scene. Both sides of the single were the same track and no artwork was included.[1]

Like the Love Tracks album, the song was produced by Dave Burgess, best known as guitarist with American rock and roll band The Champs.[11]

Following the song's original release, the song was added to the 1992 compilation Favorites and Rarities: The Very Best of Don McLean, where it appeared as the last track on the "Favourites" disc.[12]


The single received limited promotion, with no music video created.

Track listing[edit]

7" Promo Single
  1. "You Can't Blame the Train" - 3:07
  2. "You Can't Blame the Train" - 3:07

Critical reception[edit]

Allmusic spoke of the song in a review of the Love Tracks album, stating "McLean only contributes a handful of original songs - the rest are fairly standard Nashville filler, although he pulls off the everyman stomper "Love in My Heart" convincingly, and "Can't Blame the Train" rollicks along with some verve. Both tracks made the Top 100 country chart."[13]

In late October 1988, a review of the ‘’Love Tracks’’ album was published in an issue of the Toronto Star. The review described the song as a “lugubrious ballad”, along with the track “The Touch of Her Hand”.[14]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1987) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart[15] 49


  • Don McLean - Lead vocals
  • Dave Burgess - Producer
  • Terri Sharp - Writer

The Hollanders version[edit]

"You Can't Blame the Train"
Single by The Hollanders
from the album Family Ties
Released 1991
Format 7"
Genre Country
Length 3:22
Label VCA Records
Writer(s) Terri Sharp
Producer(s) Dave Burgess
The Hollanders singles chronology
"I Know a Little"
"You Can't Blame the Train"

"You Can't Blame the Train" was later covered by American Nashville music group The Hollanders in 1991, who released their version as a single[16] from their album Family Ties.


Released via VCA Records, the single was a success, where it managed to reach #2 on both the Independent Country Chart and the Cash Box Chart in America.[17][18][19]

The song was recorded at The Nightingale Studio, along with the rest of the album. Like the original version by Don McLean, The Hollanders version of the song was produced by Dave Burgess, who also produced the entire Family Ties album. The band acted as executive producers for the song and the entire album too.[20]

In the March 25, 1991 edition of Roanoke Times, an article based on the band stated "A second single and video, "You Can't Blame The Train," is now beginning to attract attention as well as "I Know a Little"."[21]


The song was released on 7" vinyl only via VCA Records, whilst a white label test version also exists.[16]

Music video[edit]

A music video was created for the single which reportedly won the People's Choice Award. The video showed footage of members of the band singing the song at a train station as well as footage of the band performing the song on stage.[22]

Track listing[edit]

7" Single (VCA-102-7)
  1. "You Can't Blame the Train" - 3:22
  2. "You Can't Blame the Train" - 3:22

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1991) Peak
U.S. Independent Country Chart[17][18][19] 2


  • Producer - Dave Burgess
  • Banjo, bass guitar, vocals - Susie
  • Lead guitar, vocals - Janet
  • Drums, vocals - Terri
  • Keyboards, vocals - Brenda
  • Instruments - Jeff
  • Fiddle - David

Other cover versions[edit]

  • Writer Terri Sharp later recorded her own version of the song, where it appeared on YouTube only in 2011.[23]
  • In 2014, Heather Dickson worked alongside Sharp to record her album Eventually, which featured a cover version of "You Can't Blame the Train", along with other Sharp compositions such as "Eventually".[24]


  1. ^ a b "Don McLean - You Can't Blame The Train (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  2. ^ "Don McLean - Love Tracks (Vinyl, LP) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  3. ^ Don McLean (1945-10-02). "Don McLean - Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  4. ^ Billboard - Google Books. 1987-12-26. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  5. ^,1605298&dq=don+mclean+can-t+blame+train&hl=en
  6. ^ " Daytona Beach news, sports, weather and classifieds | The News Journal | Daytona Beach FL". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  7. ^ Winning Retirement: Proven Strategies to Make Your Money Last and to Win ... - Greg Taylor - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Don McLean Albums". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  10. ^ "Images for Don McLean - You Can't Blame The Train". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  11. ^ "Don McLean - You Can't Blame The Train / You Can't Blame The Train - Capitol - USA - P-B-44098". 45cat. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  12. ^ Thomas, Stephen (1971-06-18). "Favourites and Rarities: The Very Best of Don McLean - Don McLean : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  13. ^ Esch, Jim. "Love Tracks - Don McLean : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  14. ^ "Healey shows fluid dexterity in big-league debut". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  15. ^ "Love Tracks - Don McLean : Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  16. ^ a b "Product Details for: HOLLANDERS,THE - YOU CAN'T BLAME THE TRAIN". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  17. ^ a b,3311187&dq=hollanders+can-t+blame+train&hl=en
  18. ^ a b,2062694&dq=hollanders+can-t+blame+train&hl=en
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^ Family Ties. "Family Ties: Music". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  21. ^ "Roanoke Times Online Archives". 1991-03-25. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  22. ^ YouTube (2010-11-15). "You Can't Blame the Train (The Hollanders)". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  23. ^ YouTube (2011-01-19). "You Can't Blame The Train Terri Sharp writer". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  24. ^