Monday, May 03, 2004

Scott ("I Know What I Know" at left) has composed a very elegant essay on the war in Iraq using REM's "Swan Swan H" as a jumping off point. The idea came when we were discussing the revelations of US torture of Iraqi prisoners and, after I mentioned that this sort of thing is common going back at least as far as Caesar's Gallic wars, I *shouted* "Swan Swan Hummingbird, for christsakes!"

Anyway, I wasn't listening to that song when I wrote the following, three nights ago.

I’m going to write based on what comes up on iTunes. It will be random, I hope.

First up: “Je Chante” by Charles Trenet. I’m put in mind of LeBeau from Hogan’s Heroes. Actually, I’m put in mind of my visit to Normandy during my summer study of the US/UK alliance during WW2. I very much enjoyed that (and the two other times) I’ve been in France. I’ve never been to Paris, but I really must check it out. Although, I’ve got a bit of an instinctive skepticism towards cultural capitals.

Now, “Smokestack Lightnin’” by Howlin’ Wolf. I’ve never been the world’s biggest blues fan, but it ain’t bad now and again. I’m more of a jazz person. The “loss” theme that runs through blues (and country) music doesnt’ so much appeal to me, I think, because my life has been relatively loss-free so far. I’ve been pretty goddamned lucky, you might say. All of my close loved ones are still alive and close, for example. I would have liked to get to know my grandfathers a bit, of course (one died long before I was born, and the other when I was but a lad).

Now “My City Was Gone” by the Pretenders. I guess this is sort of a blues song, insofar as loss is the theme. It sort of has a blues rhythm to it. This song, and “Allentown” by Billy Joel (which may roll around any minute now), appeals to me in part because the greater Birmingham area was all about the heavy industry when I was a lad. Industrial cities strike me as somehow more alive than consumer cities. Birmingham has reinvented itself as something of a consumer city since the 1980s, what with the banking and the tech and the medical stuff, and I’m not at all sure that that is an improvement. Mind you, the city is MUCH cleaner since the mills have closed/downsized. I remember my aunt’s front porch in Fairfield (if you know the area): we had to sweep the porch swing off every time before we sat in it. Every day. Several times a day. Soot. A milimeter or so thick. Imagine what went into our lungs! Still, nostalgia.

I’m waiting for the next song now. It turns out to be “Your Cheatin’ Heart” by Ray Charles. I’ve helped cheatin’ hearts cheat on two occaisions. My first sex partner had a cheatin’ heart, for example, as did my second one. I was all about the cheatin’ hearts. I hoped, of course, that the cheatin’ hearts never told on them, but it didn’t worry me so much as to cause me to stop with the cheater helpin’. Karma being what it is, however, I came to be on the receiving end of a cheatin’ heart with my first real girlfriend. Her heart was a-cheatin’ with at least one dude. I’m not sure how long she tossed around, nor whether she called my name or walked the floor, but her cheatin’ heart did tell on her.

One of the many things I’ve never experienced is “Fame” (David Bowie). Good song, though. Most of the time I don’t feel much sympathy for the famous. I figure most of the folks who have fame troubles are those who have striven to become public figures. You rarely hear, for example, about how hard it is for someone like Greg Allman to walk down the street unaccosted. This despite the fact that he’s legendary (and was even married to Cher). Utterly disposable types like Justin Timberlake, on the other hand, have to have bodyguards. Why? In part because he’s a whore. Reaping comes of sowing.

“Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” by Smashing Pumpkins (a lovely instrumental) is up next. This puts me in mind of a woman I dated for almost exactly a month. The only thing about her that marked her as an individual (other than her odd charm) was that she liked Smashing Pumpkins. Other than that, this woman was lacking in quirks or markers. Her room, clothes, attitudes, aspirations, etc. were utterly everyday. Odd.

Everyone I know is lonely, and God’s so far away. And my heart belongs to no one, so now sometimes I pray: Take the space between us, and fill it up some way. Take the space between us and fill it up. Fill it up! “Oh My God” (the Police) you take the biscuit, treating me this way: expecting me to treat you well, no matter what you say. How can I turn the other cheek? It’s black and bruised and torn. I’ve been waiting since the day that I was born. Fill it up! Fill it up! Take the space between us, fill it up some way. Take the space between us and fill it up. Fill it up! Fat man in his garden, thin man at his gate. My God you must be sleeping! Wake up, it’s much too late!

(Do I have to tell the story of a thousand rainy days since we first met? It’s a big enough umbrella, but it’s always me that ends up getting wet.)

Now here’s a song I ripped from my neighbor. I THINK it is called “Wake Me Up Inside”. I have no idea who performs it, but it ain’t bad. It is a female singer, and involves keyboards and a bit of the ole rock. There’s a guy saying “wake me up” and such in the chorus, too, and a rap-like bit in the bridge. Any tips as to who this is (and if I’ve got the name right) would be appreciated, as I like it. I wonder what the rest of the songs by these folks (this person?) would sound like. I imagine that there is some sort of pseudo-goth theme afoot.

Thrity seconds till the next song. Now twenty. Now ten. I can’t wait to find out what’s next!

Turns out to be “Black” by Pearl Jam. When I was in college, my girlfriend (with the cheatin’ heart) broke up with me and, almost at the same time, Scott’s broke up with him (it never crossed my mind to ask if she had a cheatin’ heart too. Scott?). This song was in the air. and it is the ultimate “my girlfriend broke up with me” song if you are a bit of an intellectual-in-training. Well, on second thought, “Sorrow” by Pink Floyd may be better. Both songs are pretty doggoned overwrought but very well done and really capture the mood. If you hear anyone (especially a young male) listening to either of them over and over again I suggest you intervene, as it is not unreasonable to think that suicide is being contemplated. I’ll just bathe in the “do do doo to doo de doos” for a minute or so until the next song comes around.

More Pearl Jam: “Spin the Black Circle”. I see no need to comment.

“Baby What You Want Me to Do?” by Etta James is next. We seem to be in a rut. I will take this opportunity to say that, although I’m not the hugest blues fan in the world, I do like Etta James. She had a concert on Cinemax when I was in high school and I was mightily impressed. I went right out and bought a best-of-Etta-James cassette, in fact (in addition to taping the concert the next time it rolled around on the tv). This is, as it happens, a live recording I’m listening to. The audience is totally into it, so that makes it really good. I wish I were the type of person who shouted out during a show.

Ooh! “Orange Crush” by REM. Fucking Dubyah! I have loads of reasons to hate that man, but the one that is right up near the top of my assometer at the moment is his insistence on making Vietnam a topic in the presidential campaign. I know the Kerryites want that, as they think their man compares favorably, but allow me to be heretical, for a moment: the finest thing Dubyah has ever done in his misbegotten life is avoid service in Vietnam. I see no heroism (beyond the “save the comrade” sort) in that war and do NOT have greater respect for Vietnam vets than for those of age who are not vets. Having said that, it is beneath contempt to favor a war in which one is unwilling to fight.

And so, naturally, we come to the Guess Who’s “American Woman”. This song rocks. Hard. Lenny Kravitz is cool and all (I’ll forgive him for being one of Birgit’s crushes, just as I forgive Johnny Depp), but he totally ripped the politics out of this song (a mighty task) in his cover. This song is a big ole “fuck off” to the USA from our colder neighbors and should be remembered as such. I don’t need your war machines - I don’t need your ghetto scenes.

“One More Time” by the Clash. Can I get a witness for all this misery? Anyone who dares disparage the “Sandanista!” album is a shitbag (I’m looking at you, Rolling Stone magazine). “Sandanista!” is to “London Calling” what Beethoven’s 9th is to his 5th. One step beyond, in other words. You don’t need no silicone to calcutate poverty. Watch when Watts town burns again: the bus goes to Montgomery.

I’ll stop this with “Chaos and Disorder” by Prince. Prince is a genius. I’m all about the Prince. “I’m just a no name reporter. I wish I had nothin’ to say.” (This song rocks hard, by the way. Prince is gnawing on his guitar as I type.)

SOOO many good songs have come up since I stopped typing, by the way. My music collection suits me so well, I think I’ll treat myself to a bit of onanism.


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