Today's topical song is all about an extremely highly publicized execution in Utah. On January 17, 1977 the state of Utah executed convicted murderer Gary Gilmore, marking the first time a prisoner the United States had been executed since 1967, when the state of Colorado put Luis Jose Monge to death. Monge's death was followed by an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment that gained formal legal backing in 1972 when the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Furman v. Georgia brought all death penalty sentences to a temporary halt.
Because Gilmore was the first prisoner to be executed after this extended hiatus, his case drew considerable press attention both domestically and internationally. Adding to the public's fascination with the case was the fact that Gilmore essentially agreed with the verdict and hastened his own death by refusing to appeal his sentence. Referring to his death sentence, Gilmore said laconically, "It's been sanctioned by the courts and I accept that."
"Gilmore's Last Request" refers to Gilmore's wish to see his death sentence carried out swiftly, a desire from which he never wavered. Given the choice of death by hanging or firing squad, Gilmore chose the latter. Reportedly, his last words were "Let's do it."
Although the Sundowns failed to find commercial success with their Gilmore song, over in the UK the Adverts managed to make a pretty sizeable hit of one of their own songs about the case, "Gary Gilmore's Eyes." Recorded not long after Gilmore's execution, the song refers to the fact that Gilmore was an organ donor and is told from the point of view of the recipient of the murderer's eyes.
More recently, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, fronted by Jon Langford of the Mekons and the Waco Brothers, recorded a version of Gary Gilmore's Eyes in a rockin' country vein for The Executioner's Last Songs, a 2002 release on the Bloodshot label.