Music postsWednesday May 08, 2013
Song of the Day: 'Tired of Being Alone' by Al Green
Patricia's brother Jack posted this on Facebook the other day. Two words: Holy shit.
I've been paying so little attention to the news this week that I didn't know why the five living presidents got together, why George H.W. Bush was wearing pink socks (which I liked), and why George W., his ne'er-do-well son (and a truer compound adjective was never used), was the center of attention. Then I read past the headlines: The George W. Bush Presidential Library. Cue “The Pet Goat” jokes.
Seeing W. with H.W., and surrounded by Dems, and hearing echoes of the usual bullshit from the far right, who seem to know nothing but the smell of their own bullshit these days (I'm talking the FOX-News/Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck triumverate), I flashed back to a good early 1990s R.E.M. song called “Drive.” Great opening lyrics. Back then, it really fit H.W. and the War on Drugs. Now it fits W. and his War on Terror. Astonishly so.
Smack, crack, bushwhacked
Tie another one to the racks, baby
Hey kids, rock and roll
Nobody tells you where to go, baby
The smack/crack is for the first Bush, tying another one to the racks for the second.
There are about two dozen videos of the song on YouTube, none particularly good, but the song's genius. Love the dead way Michael Stipe sings, “Nobody tells you where to go. Baby.”
Ollie Ollie in come free.
Hey kids, shake a leg/ Maybe you're crazy in the head, baby
My State of the Union
Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right
It’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest
-- Paul Simon, “American Tune,” 1973
I was dicking around YouTube last night and came across this clip of Paul Simon singing “American Tune” on the old “Dick Cavett Show” in September 1974--a month after Richard Nixon resigned, which was a few months after my parents separated. It's a melancholy song but I was feeling particularly melancholy last night so it really sunk in. Particularly that last stanza. Since the State of the Union is tonight, I thought I'd share.
A Song for Today: Our Song
The news is bad from Newtown, Conn., as we all know. I don't have words. But here's a song: “Our Song” by Joe Henry. This is the chorus, written near the end of the George W. Bush years:
This was my country
This was my song
Somewhere in the middle there
Though it started badly and it's ending wrong
This was my country
This frightful and this angry land
But it's my right if the worst of it might still
Somehow make me a better man
A lot of commentary about the tragedy in the usual places. Good. There should be commentary. There should be anger. There should be yelling. One of the better things I read came from a reader on Andrew Sullivan's site, who wrote:
Guns don't kill people - people do. By the same token, planes don't kill people - people flying them into buildings do. And yet, I recall that we immediately and decisively worked to keep deranged people from gaining possession of planes when a handful of those people used them as tools of mass murder; indeed, we made it much more difficult for the overwhelming majority of peaceful, law-abiding citizens to board a plane.
Maybe I'm missing something, but this strikes me as a good metaphor to get both sides talking. We're not interested in outlawing guns any more than we are in outlawing planes. We just have to make sure they don't keep winding up in the hands of nutjobs. Are you with us or against us?
Gun control advocates (including me) may be past that point, though. There's a lot of anger out there now. This feels like it may be a turning point in the debate: a moment so awful that the need to fucking do something already overwhelmed the general desire to shrug and move on and let the NRA have its way.
Let's hope. Let's hope this stops being our song.
Other Delights Besides Whipped Cream: Dolores Erickson & Soul Asylum
Remember the girl on the cover of the Herb Alpert album 'Whipped Cream & Other Delights'? The other delights? Of course you do.
Her name is Dolores Erickson, and she's 76 now, and lives in Longview, Wash., and she recently traveled to Seattle to help celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Golden Oldies record shop in Wallingford. The Seattle Times had the story a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, they cadge their best lines from The New Yorker, as many of us do. Worse, they: 1) don't mention the original author (Nick Paumgarten), 2) mess up the year it appeared (it's 2006, not 1996), and 3) don't provide a link to the original. Here's the Paumgarten quote in full:
It was a variation on a sentiment that decades ago fogged the minds of many young men, as they gazed at the album cover and attempted to ascribe personalized come-hitherhood to the woman staring back. In the picture, she sits holding the stem of a rose in her left hand, above which the inner portion of a bare breast protrudes from the foam. She is licking cream from the index finger of her right hand, and a dollop of the stuff rests atop her forehead, like a tiara. (This is the only real whipped cream in the shot. The rest is shaving cream.) The image still seems a little raunchy, in a home-movie kind of way, but in the virtually pornless atmosphere of the suburban mid-sixties it was—and we’re relying on the testimony of our elders here—the pinnacle of allure. The Whipped Cream Girl, as she came to be known, helped make Alpert and his Tijuana Brass even more famous than his loungy arrangements, smooth trumpet work, and suave song production destined them to be. The album shot to No. 1 and stayed on the charts for more than three years. Alpert would say, when performing live, “Sorry, but I can’t play the cover for you.”
Here's what all the fuss was about:
There have been many parodies of this album cover since, but the one I remember is the one Soul Asylum did in 1988, on their final EP for Twin-Tone Records, “Clam Dip & Other Delights,” before going national with A&M (Alpert's label). The cover featured bassist Karl Mueller similarly ensconsed in clam dip. Was Alpert not pleased? Did he sabotage their career as a result? I seem to remember hearing that. Not sure if it's true.
“Clam Dip,” I should add, includes one of my favorite Soul Asylum songs, “P-9,” an homage to the 1985 strike at the Hormel plant in Austin, Minn. I used to listen to it while schlepping at the University Book Store warehouse in the 1990s. Among its lines:
- “You gave me nothing/ Now you're taking it away”
- “If we could see eye to eye/ We could see just exactly who is small.”
- “Is it just a job I'm working for?”
Shit doesn't get old.
Here's the video, which is a little old: