“Green Onions” is mentioned a total of 10 times in this book (I know because while I was waiting for my hard copy of The Flamethrowers to arrive, I was reading the eBook version which has a handy-dandy search feature). The first reference occurs when Reno is at a bar with Thurman, Nadine, and Ronnie early on in the book. Ronnie (whose name Reno doesn’t know at the time) tells her that “Green Onions” had been stuck in his head for a decade because he’d been in jail for thirty days, where he listened to it regularly. “At first, it wasn’t so bad. ‘Green Onions’ was this special secret. Something I was hiding, like a pizza cutter up my sleeve. I was pulling one over on them, jamming out to ‘Green Onions…” (64). “…’how can you stand to listen to it now?’” “’Because you have to know your enemies,’ he said. ‘How can you fight if you don’t know what you’re up against? Who are your enemies?’ I said I didn’t know. ‘See? Exactly’” (66).
Near the end of the book, Reno as at her first party without Sandro. John Dogg mentions that “’…all songs are about unrequited love.’ ‘Except Green Onions,’ Ronnie said. ‘Which isn’t about love at all’” (311). The last reference occurs in chapter 17, which contains all the titles of Ronnie’s autobiographies. “Green Onions: Getting Out Alive” (343).
Ronnie argues that “Green Onions” isn’t about love. So what is it about? Every reference to the song is made by Ronnie. At the party, Ronnie implies that the song is his enemy. Please bear with me while I take a stab at what I think he meant by that. “Green Onions” is an instrumental song, so it open to interpretation. Ronnie contends that it isn’t about love, but who is he to say that? I think he likes the uncertainty of what the song means. He likes uncertainty in his life–we see that in his stories and the way he moves from one woman to the next. But does he like uncertainty in others? Perhaps that is why he calls the song his “enemy.” He’s fighting fire with fire.