I’ve been watching the Vevo version of Dead Or Alive’s Something in My House music vid and basing Pete Burns’ ham/cheese/bananas ability on that, but apparently there’s another version from the 1986 Rip It Up concert vid. This other version has no suggestive banana T_T, but it does have lots more live architecture; i.e., the heads on the door are actual heads, actually blinking. It also has lots more quick cuts and a better view of Pete dancing/writhing/having tantrums, so that’s always a plus. Furthermore, the plot, such as it is, becomes more apparent: it’s Pete qua werewolf/vampire/professional lurker in black pursuing Steve Coy qua hapless dude with a lantern. Unfortunately hapless dude appears to take refuge in the professional lurker’s house. At least I think that’s what’s going on. Anyway, if you like Pete Burns singing and making faces [and who doesn’t? — that man is a master face-puller], check out the other version.
I am so late to the party on this, but I love this song. I’m always interested in villains’ songs; this sounds kinda like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and @natalunasans introduced it to me with accompanying images of Roger Delgado playing the Master in Doctor Who, and Roger Delgado is nearly up there with Pete Burns in terms of scenery chewing and fun having, only with more eyebrows.
So cute! But where’s Ghoulia? I want Ghoulia! D:
I have had a deep and unrestrained loathing for the song Celebration by Kool and the Gang, ever since I saw it in the 1996 English remake of The Birdcage, for which I also have a deep and unrestrained loathing. The song is now indelibly associated in my mind with the climax of the movie, in which the conservatives disguise themselves to escape paparazzi staking out the gay bar — hence the Gene Hackman in bad drag. I must say that he did very good bad drag, along with truly memorable Oh, sweet Jesus, what am I doing here?! body language, but I still hate the song…and the movie, the plot of which is predicated on a venomous level of internalized homophobia. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.
Apparently Mick Jagger expressed interest in the lead role of Frank in the movie version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but Tim Curry got it instead.
My first thought on learning of this was, Well, if that had happened, we wouldn’t have been able to understand the lyrics. Seriously, I think Mick has a little contest with himself to see how unintelligible he can make his words every time he sings them. In a musical where the songs form an integral part of the plot, characters, and story, I shudder to think what he’d do to…oh, pretty much any of the words.
My second thought was a question. Why would the head of the [arguable, self-billed] World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band be interesting in taking time out from his busy schedule of writing songs, subsequently mangling the lyrics in concert, wielding his pelvic in a manner specifically calculated to freak out the straights, and rolling in dough to star in a cheap pastiche of B movie horror?
I’ve found two related answers. First, Mick has a side interest in acting, the same way David Bowie did. The role of Frank, with its hammy lasciviousness, fits in with Mick’s performing persona, so it’s a good match there too.
Second, I guess the Rolling Stones’ popularity waned in the early and mid 1970s. Though they remained popular with listeners, they didn’t sell as well as they had in the later 1960s. The rock establishment tended to regard them as irrelevant sell-outs.
In this context, Mick’s interest in Rocky Horror makes a little more sense. Contrary to my assumption, I guess he wasn’t busy being a superstar — or at least he had more free time around 1974 than he did about ten years earlier, when I Can’t Get No Satisfaction came out. The Stones’ comparative lull of the mid 1970s gave Mick time in which to entertain alternatives, including cut-rate, campy movies based on successful stage shows.
Dead or Alive frequently looks and sounds to me like a New Wave version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show , except, to use the immortal words of Rantasmo, with “more gay.” For example, the music video for Something in My House  provides many echoes of the whole Rocky Horror movie and especially Sweet Transvestite. It would be a crying shame not to use all the screencaps I already generated from my Something in My House audience participation snark, so let’s see some of them again, shall we? This time, they’ll be accompanied with screenshots from similar moments in Rocky Horror.
First things first. Here’s Sweet Transvestite, featuring words ‘n’ music by Richard “I Hate Myself” O’Brien, as well as enough bananas on ham to feed the entire state of Vermont, contributed by Tim Curry [Frank], Susan Sarandon [Janet], and Barry Bostwick [Brad]. And here’s Something in My House, featuring words ‘n’ music by Dead or Alive, as well as drama and histrionics contributed by Pete Burns [singer] and Steve Coy [drummer]. Look; listen, and learn. Continue reading The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Dead or Alive — parallels
The title says it all, folks. The music video for Something in My House epitomizes Dead or Alive’s combination of playfulness, silliness, and camp so high that it’s smoking pot somewhere in the stratosphere. Speaking of bananas on ham, there are actual bananas in the video [and maybe actual ham, although I’ve never gotten a close look at the smorgasbord], which means that Pete is quite literally chewing the scenery. I feel that this is what The Rocky Horror Picture Show should have been like — a goofy celebration of flirting with and mugging for the crowd — instead of being a toxic pile of transmisogynist waste that derided the over-the-top character it supposedly centered around. Hmmmm, I smell another essay in the works about camp in RHPS versus camp in Dead or Alive.
Anyway, this entry is mainly an excuse for copious screencaps and sarcastic comments…Continue reading Something in My House, bananas-on-ham fit throwing, and the sheer beauty of Pete Burns’ melodramatic petulance
Being the third in a multipart essay on a) the queer aesthetics of Dead or Alive, b) the effects thereof on the band, and c) the effects thereof on Pete Burns, with AIDS panic and transmisogyny for good measure!
I previously engaged in long, hard study of Dead or Alive’s performances and music to bring you the penetrating news that, first, they were all about the gay imagery and, second, they were all about the gender-bending. Now we’ll examine the effects of said performance and reputation on Dead or Alive’s popularity. Basically I argue that the homophobic and transmisogynist hostility to Dead or Alive hampered their mainstream success.
An in-depth view of You Spin Me Round Like a Record — and, more specifically, what it conspicuously lacks — demonstrates the cultural prejudices arrayed against Dead or Alive. You Spin Me, as I mentioned in Part I, is the song for which the band is best known, at least in the US, UK, and Canada [which all are, of course, the center of the world 😛 ]. Analysis of the reasons for its success leads me to the conclusion that it succeeded mostly on the strength of being neither homoerotic nor generally genderqueer. Yes, folks, I’m saying that the song topped the charts due to the sheer power of its mediocrity.
Now I’m not arguing that lack of homoerotic and genderqueer content automatically makes You Spin Me dull; instead I’m arguing that it charted because it was one of the least queer, most heteronormative, least innovative, and generally commercially safest in Dead or Alive’s oeuvre. In no particular order, here are my reasons for the song’s boringness:
- Musically speaking, You Spin Me demonstrates a conservative dependence on other artists’ work. According to Wikipedia, Pete’s autobiography states that the song arose from his mental mashup of Luther Vandross’ I Wanted Your Love and Little Nell’s See You Round Like a Record. I don’t count this as much of a strike against the song, as it’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it, but I know that Dead or Alive can do cool, creative reinterpretations of others’ songs [ref. their cover of That’s The Way I Like It]. However, You Spin Me, which is neither original or daring, doesn’t come anywhere close to That’s the Way I Like It.
- Furthermore, the lyrics play it straight. A significant number of Dead or Alive’s songs either leave the identity of the singer’s lover ungendered and/or insinuate that the singer is a dude singing about another dude. By contrast, You Spin Me has a male singer addressing someone as baby, a feminized diminutive, thus implying the male singer’s interest in a female person, i.e., heterosexual desire.
- It’s not funny. I earlier derided Dead or Alive’s lyrics as generic, but that was before I detected the sly humor at work in some of their stuff. This wryness appears in Brand New Lover, in which the peripatetic singer frankly wishes for “someone who will lie to me” and pretend not to notice his constant infidelities. Many of the homoerotic double entendres are also pretty entertaining, as when the lyrics of Something in My House wonder “what might have been / If I’d never met that wicked queen.” Queen qua regal woman or queen qua gay guy? I opt for b), given the total context of Dead or Alive’s preferred imagery. Anyway, the point remains that You Spin Me, with its simple, generic declaratives, has none of this humor.
- Even the supporting material is unusually subdued. The music video, for example, features the band mostly singing into the camera, occasionally tied up in ribbons and sometimes waving flags, with breaks to show an out-of-focus disco ball. Pretty much nothing happens in it, although we do see Pete
dancingwiggling slightly, as some people’s hands, adorned with golden nails, appear from behind him. I understand [from the Wikipedia article again] that they did this on the cheap, but it completely avoids the energetic abandon of all other music videos of theirs I’ve seen.
To summarize, You Spin Me eschews all those potentially controversial aspects of Dead or Alive’s music and image: the homoeroticism, the genderqueerness, and the tongue-in-cheek humor. The song plays it safe melodically with its homage to other artists’ hits. The lyrics describe a thoroughly average experience of heteronormative lust. The song is completely without the humorous glints of self-awareness and/or homoerotic allusions prevalent in other songs. More than that, even the music video shows Dead or Alive in a quiet, physically restrained [literally, by the ribbons!] physical presentation. Pete’s purple loungewear aside [seriously, what is that revolting thing?!], the video showcases nothing remarkable. In other words, You Spin Me gains significance for those qualities conspicuous by their absence in it, not because it has some positive greatness.
You Spin Me is both Dead or Alive’s least quintessential song and also their most popular and commercially successful. I acknowledge that some of their other songs did chart and achieve popularity, particularly in the UK and Japan, but mainstream culture regards the group as a one-hit wonder with You Spin Me as their emblem. That’s because, in the homophobic 1980s, during which people were having moral freakouts over the AIDS crisis, Dead or Alive’s ebullient, flamboyant homoerotic image, genderqueerness, and playful, funny performance of sexuality had little appeal. Only when the band toned down or even excised these aspects could they achieve a chart-topping hit.
The case study of You Spin Me suggests that the homoerotic and genderqueer aesthetics of Dead or Alive manifested in some ways as absences. They played up these aspects in many of their songs, videos, and concerts, but the presence of such tropes led to a mainstream cultural censorship. We found Dead or Alive too hard to handle in the 1980s, so we ignored them, denied them popular and commercial success, and thus absented them from widespread familiarity. When they evacuated their signature aesthetics from You Spin Me in a sort of creative absence, we rewarded them by acknowledging their existence and granting pop cultural success. These absences at play conjure up the metaphorical space of an artistic closet, a homophobic construction created when the audience willfully avoids things it doesn’t want to accept and the artists go along with it by pretending not to evince said traits.
Tune in next time when I focus my attention on Pete’s image in particular and the ways in which homophobia and transmisogyny have played out more recently in his life.
Other parts of this essay:
When I find a song that I particularly like, I play it over and over. There’s a reason I’ve referred to endless repeat elsewhere on this blog — because my new favorites go into heavy rotation. While heavy rotation in radio station terms seems to mean playing the same song once or twice an hour for six weeks, the same phrase in MW terms means playing the same song over and over, several hours a day, for two to six weeks.
I listen to song until I know every note, every silence, every enunciation and slur of the vocals, all the reverbs on the percussion, every nuance of the lyrics, every single minute detail. The song becomes so familiar that it becomes as customary to me as my own thoughts. It’s like breaking in a pair of shoes and starting off with the pinch and pain, but then making them comfortable, so that one can then revel in the pure flow of walking movement without interruption. I play the song so often that it softens and disintegrates, becoming part of me. The song melts down into background noise, an ambient sea of sounds and connotations.
Then, somehow, the song hangs around for so long, unexamined, that I inevitably bring it back for a closer look. It loops back around into novelty, whereupon I begin to inspect it more closely. Now I can compare the baseline to others songs from the same period; now I can detect the subtle, self-mocking humor at work in the words; now I can identify why I find that pitch change right there so irritating… I look at something that I haven’t thought about in a while and realize why I sent it temporarily down to another level of my consciousness, only to later retrieve it. By dint of pure unstinting sensory feed, I absorb a close understanding of the musical text.
Apparently this is not the way that the vast majority of people listen to music. Apparently this joyously repetitive immersion and breakdown overlaps a lot with the stimming practiced by neurodiverse people. Huh. So how do the vast majority of people listen to music?
Back when I was discussing Dead or Alive’s mischievous deployment of homoeroticism in their music and videos, I completely passed I’ll Save You All My Kisses, from Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know . I’m here to rectify this unforgivably grievous omission because, not only is the video for it hilarious, but it’s also so extremely homoerotic that I could have used it as my sole piece of evidence.
In the vid, Pete is dancing with his back to a fence, from which guys in tight jeans are hanging avidly. Steve Coy and Mike Percy patrol the ground, smacking baseball bats into their hands menacingly, presumably to keep the groupies from touching Pete. I doubt the groupies would be able to touch much, though, as Pete’s leather jacket is armored with approximately 700 zillion rhinestones, and his embossed steel codpiece/chastity belt/jockstrap thing is firmly chained to said jacket. Pete makes faces at the camera, deliberately pointing away from the groupies. The members of the audience grow increasingly excited, straddling the top of the fence and ripping off their shirts. After all this preparation, the video ends.
I have to say that, whenever I watch this video, I feel like I’m watching some crappy commercial cut edited down for length or unobjectionability. I feel like there was a moment to which all the fence climbing and baseball bat whacking was building, some confrontation between groupies and guards, of which I was tragically deprived. Phooey.
Other parts of this essay:
Being the second in a multipart essay on, first, the queer aesthetics of Dead or Alive, second, the effects thereof on the band, and, third, the effects thereof on Pete Burns, with AIDS panic and transmisogyny for good measure!
I previously demonstrated that Dead or Alive regularly used performance of gay male eroticism as part of their image. They also employed a more generally queer aesthetic of gender play, endearing them even less to the mainstream US. Continue reading Dead or Alive, Too Hard to Swallow — Part II — The Genderqueering
Being the first in a multipart essay on a) the queer aesthetics of Dead or Alive, b) the effects thereof on the band, and c) the effects thereof on Pete Burns, with AIDS panic and transmisogyny for good measure!
For the purposes of this essay, Dead or Alive constitutes a British New Wave dance pop band most prominent in the mid-1980s. Lead singer Pete Burns, drummer Steve Coy, guitarist Wayne Hussey, and bassist Mike Percy formed the group during their years of greatest exposure. They really hit it big with their second album Youthquake, from which You Spin Me Round Like A Record charted to 1 on the UK singles chart, number 11 in the US, and number 1 in Canada. Further albums had chart success in the UK and Japan, but never hit mainstream popularity in the US.
Okay, so…rad New Wave band with a danceable groove, fun songs, and super sexy members — what’s not to love, right? I theorize that Dead or Alive was way too hard to swallow [pun intended :p] for a homophobic 1980s United States. The societal forces of homophobia and transmisogyny militated against Dead or Alive’s US success. Furthermore, it’s arguable that the same prejudices also nearly did in Pete Burns himself.
The official music video of Dead or Alive’s In Too Deep has everything you could ask for:
- Obviously gay merman pining after Pete
- A fish tank in front of the lens about 90% of the time
- Set dressing made primarily of colored cellophane
- Lots and lots and lots and lots of glitter
- Pete Burns in a clamshell
- A WTF? ensemble from Pete Burns, featuring peach loungewear, mirrored eyepatch, and white socks
Looks nice, and I can understand the lyrics, but I like the live version from Rip It Up more.
Wow. I’m surprised that the music video for Dead or Alive’s My Heart Goes Bang Bang includes a blue handkerchief pinned to the right rear of Pete Burns’ jeans, and, as far as I can tell, no one made a stink about it.
Maybe very few people knew about the hanky code in 1985? Anyway, the hanky code, an innovation associated with gay dudes in the 1970s, developed as a way to signify predilection for certain erotic activities. The color of the hanky denoted the category of activity, and the side on which someone wore their hanky indicated what role they preferred in the activity.
To use the example of Pete Burns’ hanky in this video, dark blue refers to anal sex. Right side says that the wearer prefers the submissive/penetrated position. So, as far as I can tell, this is as obviously homoerotic as the Verlaine/Rimbaud Sonnet to the Asshole [which is exactly about what the title says, as you can tell from this very well done English translation], but I guess either people missed it and/or no one watched the video. I thought that, for sure, in the age of the AIDS panic and the Moral Majority, something like this would would cause strenuous objection.
Dead Or Alive did two concerts in 1987 for their Rip It Up release. Last night I watched an intercut of the two performances. While the video quality was grade Z, the video itself proved extremely educational. Here is what I learned:
- Pete Burns is like a combination of Freddie Mercury and Ivan Doroschuk. He’s got Freddie’s glee of staging himself and Ivan’s complete inability to stand still when singing. He also has the same tendency that both Freddie and Ivan have to let go and just start flailing in glee. Like Freddie, like Ivan, like Lesley, like Shirley, like Michael, he doesn’t so much sing as much as he emanates an irresistible combination of music, power, and joy. I will always find the tension between controlled performance and irrepressible musical abandon incredibly hot.
- There is, however, such a thing as too much Pete Burns. The camera spent way too much time on him and not nearly enough on the other band members. It’s not a solo show, people! Where’s Steve Coy [drummer]?!
- I figured out why Pete Burns’ hair is like that — all the better for whipping around during instrumentals.
- Good backup makes or breaks a concert. I’m talking, of course, about the several guys in sparkly jockstraps who were pretty much doing high-intensity aerobics for a full hour while getting manhandled by Pete Burns [hah!]. I remain irritated that I saw a lot more of them than, you know, 75% of the actual band, but I have to admit that they matched Pete Burns rather well in terms of energy and amount of sheer fun they were having.
- Concerts where people onstage take off their pants are infinitely more entertaining than the same performers on stage avec pantalons.
- If you’re really good, not to mention a little tired from all the singing and dancing, you can take off your pants during an instrumental, turn your ass to the audience, bend over, and stay like that for a few minutes. The crowd’ll go wild.
- Dead Or Alive’s lyrics and melodies are just…mediocre. Generic like hotel room upholstery. As exciting as water at room temperature. Abysmally unexceptional without the visuals. The aggressively homoerotic scene dressing works mightily to compensate. “Sure, we sound like vanilla pudding, but take a look at those guns!” Sometimes it succeeds.
- It’s a pity that the amazing vanilla has become linguistically synonymous in English with boringness, but that’s another entry…
On one hand, it’s a light boppy electronic flashing 2D advertising blitzkrieg reinterpretation with vocal stylings [and general style] from Pete Burns with backup from Steve Coy! Apt fusion of style, substance, and subject, whoop whoop!
On the other hand, Dead Or Alive just works better as a complete band. I feel like the presence of the other members would have made it harder, tighter, and stronger. It needs a little more slam, bang, and twitch [“Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww wham bam thank you ma’am”? :p], also more Steve Coy looking absolutely deadpan.
(O_O) Now I am edified and completely distracted with lust. I don’t know where to look first — the hips, the lips, the limbs, the chins, the lips [again], the hair, the eyebrows…
Extra super amazing bonus points for the woman with the updo dancing in front of the “Keep my body strong” weight-lifting segment. Double plus bonus points for the eyebrows. Everyone in this video is having a huge amount of fun, which makes it even sexier.
Lead of Dead Or Alive = Pete Burns apparently.
I’m pretty sure that Dead or Alive spent a grand total of $5.00 on the official You Spin Me Round [Like a Record] music video, broken down as follows:
That purple thing the lead is wearing: 25c [from a garage sale]
Gold semaphore flags: 75c
Fake nails: $1.50
Hair spray: $2.50
Yaaaaaaay! Another $100.00 music video by Men Without Hats, this time for Moonbeam. [$25.00 clearly went to space rental, $25.00 to safety harnesses, and $50.00 to dry ice. See commentary on Pop Goes the World video for budget breakdown on that one.]
I feel like this is what Major Tom was doing before he got strung out. :p
For comparison and contrast, see David Bowie’s also obviously cheap video for Space Oddity.
I’ve been digging the Strumbellas’ studio version of Spirits for a few months now, but recently just found a live version. It has even more passion than the studio version! [Also please note lead singer wearing socks. 🙂 ] This song feels appropriate, especially with its celebratory memorial parade in the video, in the wake of the Pulse massacre.
Oomph!’s music video for the song is nothing novel, and the amount of time lavished on Marta Jandova acting like she’s in a third-rate shampoo commercial is abysmal when compared to the amount of time we see Dero Goi tied to the bed. There should be at least four minutes of the latter and two seconds of the former.
That being said, I, as usual, find Goi’s scenery chewing melodrama irresistibly hilarious, especially in this video, for some reason. I think it’s probably the bodily emphasis on his attempted rejection of the Macht of Sex: flailing, pushing, lurching.
You know, main character — if you’re slam dancing in denial, you might wish to re-examine the sources of your vehemence. I’m not advocating for a capitulative landslide here, but for the realistic appraisal of your interest in the subject, as clearly your zealous attempts at repression aren’t benefitting you.
But seriously…could the imagery in this video be any duller and more trite? And could the lyrics any further epitomize Baudelaire’s favorite trope, the Misogynist DeathSex? [Sample lyric: “Du blutest nicht genug für mich / Küss mich noch ein letztes Mal.” “You’re not bleeding enough for me / Kiss me one last time.” Implication: …Before I kill you.] Snore!
And now, for an antidote, Poi Dog Pondering’s Blood and Thunder.
There’s a verse in the German Labyrinth that goes:
Wenn ich in deine Seele tauche
Und dich für meine Lust gebrauche
Dann word ich deine Sinne blenden
Das Spiel kannst nur du selbst beenden
Oomph! changed the lyrics for the English version to:
When I possess your soul, I’ll say things
And use you as my personal plaything
The time will come — I’ll dull your senses
If you don’t stop, this game is endless
That is one of the most flaccid translations ever. What the hell, Oomph!? How can you translate that verse with a screamingly obvious lack of, well, oomph?
Here’s a more literal translation, courtesy of yours truly:
When I plunge into your soul
And use you for my lust
Then I will blind your senses
Only you can end this game
And my less literal translation, still a work in progress:
I’ll go deep inside your core
And I’ll use you as I please
I will blind you and benight you
Only you can end this game
See where Oomph!’s stinks? This is a verse that needs short, sharp, declarative words — concussive stuff, assaultive language, precision. But instead Oomph! goes for the multisyllables [“possess,” “personal plaything”], which, while plosive, attenuate the brief force of the German.
Also…seriously, Oomph!? You’re gonna go all generic in a verse that needs specificity? The original indicates a targeted inward strike, followed by exploitation for lust, and then a complete sensory overpowering. The speaker says exactly what’s going to happen, while, in the English, we have just a vague “possession,” during which the speaker will “say things,” followed by “dull[ing] senses.” In the original, we have complete physical and mental ruination precipitated by rape, after which comes sensory implosion. In the English, it sounds like the speaker is casually planning to set up shop inside the listener’s skull and talk about, you know, some stuff, while fucking around a little bit, which might cause blurred vision.
They’re so good with other parts of the song too. For example, Klopf klopf, lass mich rein / Lass mich dein Geheimnis sein is literally Knock knock, let me in / Let me be your secret. But the English goes, Knock knock, let me in / Let me be your secret sin, which captures not only the rhyme, but also the shame and humiliation for which the speaker is aiming. Too bad they couldn’t sustain it.
I read an essay in Smithsonian years back in which the author described childhood war games. When the author and friends were being Nazis, they used their imaginative interpretation of German. In a memorable turn of phrase, the author describes this fictional German as being made up primary of Achtung and lots of spit. Whenever I think of this, I snicker.
Given my recent NDH Ohrwurmer, the phrase Achtung and lots of spit comes to mind again. It’s actually a fair approximation of the percussive enunciations that at least Rammstein likes to use [“Rrrrrrrrrrein rrrrrrrrrrraus…”]. Oomph! does it too, but with less growling and more banging.
NDH: making German sound like a self-parody since whenever the genre developed. ^_^
Soooooooo SeventhBard and Roland introduced me and Jareth to Oomph!, a German slammer band. They don’t have the musical, uh, oomph of Rammstein, but that have tons more humor and more fun, not to mention a scenery-chewing complete hambone for a lead singer. And none of the sicko Baudelairean perverted Misogynist DeathSex [so far]!
Naturally, I downloaded Oomph!’s Labyrinth. The song and music video together are clearly the result of a bangin’ threesome between Labyrinth the movie, Alice’s Adventures Underground, and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, the sexcapades of which were then followed by a viewing of Pan’s Labyrinth and dramatic readings of Blake’s Sick Rose, as well as Dickinson’s Me from Myself — to Banish, with Rammstein’s album Mutter for a little mood music, not to mention a compendium of knock knock jokes for a chaser. Yes, knock knock jokes. ^_^
Aaaaaanyway, in the immortal words of Howard Dean speaking to the Governor’s Institute class of summer, 1994, this song grabs me where I like to be grabbed, so I’m planning an accompanying photostory. Below we have Jareth as one of the players. Please ignore the shirt intersecting with the pants and all such crap.
A minor key version of String’s Every Breath You Take, done by Chase Holfelder. Musically speaking, this sounds so much more beautiful and compelling than the original. Even though it’s very tonally pleasing and Christian Grey isn’t, I still deem this version his theme song because it connotes more danger, doom, and despair than the original.
I’ve been listening to Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit because it was on Says You last weekend [in a round about songs that people know by informal titles that aren’t their actual titles — I guess people know it as Go Ask Alice]. Also for some reason I ended up at a trailer for Alice Through the Looking Glass, a sequel nobody wanted for a movie nobody liked. Pink was covering it with an interesting raw, rocky edge, but I was much too distracted by Johnny Depp’s whingeing and Sacha Baron Cohen’s scenery chewing. I have therefore been listening to the album original and then the version done live at Woodstock. In the latter, one can watch Grace Slick in all her barefoot, fringe-bedecked, frizzy-haired glory, plugging one ear with a finger, grasping the microphone tight enough to strangle it, and singing with an intensity both joyful and piercingly focused. She is the personification of groovy — she has a groove, and she’s grooving in it, and she’s amazing. [For further illustration of Grace groovin’ in her groovy groove, check her — and the whole Airplane crew — doing Somebody to Love! Wow!]
Been listening to some New York Dolls, the eponymous album only, in the last few days. Also been trying to figure out what’s going on in Frankenstein, since I can only understand about 50% of the words, and it drives me up the wall. Let’s see if I can follow along with the lyrics…
We start off in New York City. Something [bad] must have recently happened. All the kids are fucked up. Probably has something to do with Frankenstein.
The person to whom the speaker is singing used to be pretty cool, dancing, tripping, figuring out what was what. Behind that nonchalance, though, lurked the listener’s sense that Frankenstein would start controlling their life.
So now Frankenstein’s back, trying to run the listener’s life, telling them that everything they’re doing is wrong. The listener feels like shit because of Frankenstein’s treatment and takes it out on the local scene, trying to manipulate it in the way that Frankenstein manipulates them.
Is it wrong to fall in love with someone like Frankenstein? Maybe the listener could use a friend. Sure, Frankenstein might be misunderstood, but still — he makes the listener feel trapped in their own home.
The listener knows they’re not alone, right? Even though the role doesn’t quite fit, even though the listener’s gonna get it, the speaker can’t keep quiet. It’s time to scream this story in the streets.
The speaker concludes with a single serious question: Does the listener really think this is going anywhere?
Hmmm, okay, now I clearly understand what the song’s about. Looking at the lyrics, I read it as a description of an abusive relationship, as observed by the sympathetic singer. The singer contrasts the listener’s earlier, pre-Frankenstein happiness with their behavior since meeting the nasty Frankenstein. Desperate and control freaky, the listener seems to be using Frankenstein’s own tactics on their social circle. The speaker perceives that the listener feels some sort of attachment to Frankenstein, but also feels lonely and oppressed. The speaker says that it’s okay to have friends besides Frankenstein and foresees nasty events in the listener’s future. Even though they love Frankenstein, Frankenstein ain’t ever gonna love them back.
The Wikipedia article on the album offers interpretations of the song about Frankenstein as New York City itself, working a transformative number on naive young people who flock to it.
One of the most memorable and useful justifications I learned in Latin class was “It fit the meter.” You see — the Latin language poetry I translated in high school followed a rigorous form of syllabification and rhythm known as meter.
When we were working on lines, our teacher regularly pointed out poetic devices and asked us why we thought Virgil [because we were doing the Aeneid] — used certain words. Without fail, one kid always responded, “It fit the meter!”
This explanation, while technically true, always entertained me. It completely dismissed all sort of sophisticated rhetorical effects and instead focused on wedging language into the appropriate amount of syllables and lines.
That being said, I find myself seeing all flourishes that “fit the meter” in a variety of media. When someone is repeating “Yeah yeah yeah” or “Oh oh oh” in a song, those words exist to fit the meter. Rococo architecture is full of curlicues and flourishes that fit the meter. When my digital sets look boring and empty, I may add people and decor to fit the meter. In other words, fitting the meter means filling available space in an appropriate way.
Back to the title of this entry… After watching Michael Jackson’s Bad and Smooth Criminal, I think that a certain number of his crotch grabs and hat tilts occur because they fit the meter — i.e., they fill time and look cool.
69 is really fucking young to go.
As a result, I hate it 85% less than the original. The key change, the slowing of tempo, and the change from pop to smash make it much more enjoyable to listen to, as well as just all-around interesting. But it’s still a Christmas song, and I hate pretty much all Christmas songs, so it’s not a full rehabilitation.
That being said, I could totally get behind a serious metal version of We Three Kings — not an instrumental, as I’ve been finding on Youtube, but the actual song, with all the lyrics, including my favorite verse, which is pretty metal anyway:
Myrrh is mine
Its bitter perfume
Breathes a sign
Of gathering gloom
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
This is very hot. I am going to watch this many many many times on repeat. There’s also a song in there that’s not too bad to listen to…but damn — that individual can move. [A little concerned about the bruise-colored eyeshadow, though…]
You’re bad? Okay. You can call yourself anything you want — just do that pelvic thrust again!!!
I wonder if the jingling chains were just taped along with the singing or if they were put on a separate track that was added in later. In any case, they’re my favorite part of the song aside from Michael Jackson’s
pelvic girdle dancing.
- Barbie Girl by Aqua. Witty, catchy, and slyly addressing the Madonna/whore dichotomy! What more could you ask for?
- Coin Operated Boy by the Dresden Dolls. Overwrought, but still insightful and memorable, especially with plinky-plonky piano. Also Brian Viglione is really hot.
- Close to You by the Carpenters. Because of the scene in Mirrormask [linked in song title] in which those clockwork gynoids dollify Helena to the tune. Get away from me with your creepy Objectification Dust [TM], robots!
- Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead. Metaphorical dolls. Close enough.
- China Girl by David Bowie. Double entendre dolls with more Objectification Dust and bonus racism!
- Rent by the Pet Shop Boys. Willfully trying to confuse money and possession with love and acceptance and, on occasion, succeeding in this self-delusion.
- Columbine by David Bowie. The first 1:40 of this mournful video, which is apparently part of a pantomime, Pierrot in Turquoise, that David Bowie created and starred in around 1967. Mimes have always reminded me of dolls.
- Toy Soldier by David Bowie. Another song from the same era as Columbine. It’s like a nursery rhyme mashed up with Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs, from which he lifted most of the chorus. The result is as funny, disturbing, and downright weird as you would expect.
- Under My Thumb by the Rolling Stones. We’re not dealing with Objectification Dust here, folks. We’re dealing with Objectification Cement.
- More to come.
I didn’t really know the lyrics to Aqua’s dance hit Barbie Girl until today when I watched the video. Both the lyrics and the video crack me up. I love the way that the main verses make repeated obvious reference to sexual activities, like undressing, kissing, touching, even blatant “hanky panky,” but the chorus insists that Barbie and Ken’s main activity is partying. Yeah right…the video demonstrates that Rene Dif’s Ken is trying to get into Lene Nystrom’s Barbie’s pants.
I also like Nystrom’s delivery. She sings in a simpering falsetto that accentuates the non-sexual aspect of all the proposed activities. In fact, her Barbie seems more interested in stereotypes of romantic love [“You can touch / You can play / If you say / I’m always yours”] and has very little awareness of the double entendres of her lines. The closest she comes is when she says, “I can act like a star / I can beg on my knees,” whereupon she looks over her sunglasses with an expression that could possibly be knowing or conspiratorial if her character weren’t so blithely uninterested in sexual objectification for the rest of the video. Ken’s the one rolling his eyes and winking at the audience, while Barbie is busy petting the dog, roller skating, and thinking of true love. She’s illustrating the interpretation of doll qua child’s toy, and he’s illustrating doll qua sex toy. Of course, the whole song’s constant emphasis on contrafactuality [“Imagination / Life is your creation,” “…In a fantasy world,” “I can act like a star”] points out that both concepts of dolls are overheated stereotypes created by heterosexual dudes who are not interested in relating to actual, real, complex women, so it’s a sly critique masquerading as a poppy dance hit.
I like smart songs about dolls!
In this video, Billy Idol prances around on a junky, post-apocalyptic sound stage, proclaiming how he’s all alone. As he continues posturing and sneering in a hammy, macho manner, fans [?] dressed in grey, ragged clothes scale the walls and attempt to reach him, but he zaps them all away with electricity and continues to assert that he’s dancing with himself dammit! Undaunted, the fans climb up the walls again, gather around him on the sound stage, and start seriously boogeying down. Billy Idol ends the song insisting that he’s still all by his lonesome, but the effect of this statement is diminished by the sweet moves of the fans around him.
P.S. Yes, I am also aware of the misogynist themes in this video, like the silhouette of the chained woman dancing and the man sharpening his razor in preparation for killing her.
…I just saw the music video for the first time, and it’s one of the purest, most horrible depictions I’ve seen of Brown People As Props On Great White Hunter’s [Misogynist, Racist, Objectifying] Journey. The singer, who’s not only white, but also dressed in white, just in case we forgot he’s white, mouths the lyrics while plowing through crowds of subcontinental Indians. He grows increasingly irritated as people keep him from shoving his way through the crowd. I like to imagine that all the extras aren’t following the direction to obstruct the singer, but instead are pretending to go about their daily business, unimpressed by some white dude who thinks that the world should clear a path for his penis. Quick cuts reveal that he’s chasing after an African woman, who inexplicably has pointless designs painted on her brows and cheeks. The end up in the leaves of a swampy forest, rolling around. I think they’re supposed to be contending, but the slow motion just makes it seem like they’re doing some sort of badly coordinated tumbling routine. Brilliant.
On a purely cinematographical level, this video also fails miserably because it’s filmed during the daytime. However, the first lines of the song — “Dark in the city / Night is a wire / Steam in the subway / Alleys afire” — describe an evocative setting in which the exhalations from the underground mirror the singer’s panting, while the fire in the dead ends links into his energy and urgency. Also I would like to point out that this song happens at night, which heightens the whole singer=wolf metaphor by connoting wolves baying at the moon. The nocturnal setting is essential to the song, but the video discards it in favor of daylight for no apparent reason. Why? They couldn’t wait a few hours? They didn’t have enough spotlights? Who knows? This music video stinks all around.
I rarely share in public what goes on with the characters in my head, but this is one of the more innocuous events.
For context, I got Whip It by Devo stuck in my head, which is clearly a goofy set of puns, even if you haven’t seen the video. Then I started thinking about Jareth’s workplace, which is mostly your basic corporate office, except for the fact that the business, the Mortal Coil [yes, thank you very much — I like the name too] sells party space, scene space, kinky equipment, and bdsm services. [And that’s one of the ways you can tell it’s imaginary — because such a company would never exist anywhere in Vermont. :p ]
Sadine is the Coil’s rock star domme who brings in so much business that she gets her own assistant, which is Jareth. It’s mostly executive assistant work, with a ton of calendar management. Lately, though, she’s been getting a lot of really low-quality crap from the web content specialists who are ghosting her blog copy, and so we begin our vignette…Continue reading “Doing a Devo,” or, What Goes On in My Imagination
Me to my boss today [deadpan]: I have a very serious, pressing question: How did it get to be 11:45 already?
Her [deadpan]: We’re in a time warp. We went through the wormhole and came out the other end.
Me: Like in Wayne’s World. [makes appropriate sound effects]
Of course, since I often have meta-thoughts, especially about language, I got to wondering what exactly a time warp is, what it sounds like, and the history of its development as a pop cultural shorthand for a perception that time is moving more quickly or more slowly than usual. I have no definite answers, but I think the signature sound of the TARDIS on Doctor Who, as well as the show’s theme song [2003 version linked], not to mention the RHPS song Time Warp, will inflect the results. Stay tuned.
In this 1973 promo video for “Angie,” the Stones are either really stoned or pretending to be very effectively. [Nice gold nail polish, Mick.] I really like this song, especially the way in which Mick Jagger turns the title into some four- or five-syllable plaint. It’s a rare example of the Rolling Stones showing up their talents without being misogynist shitheads. And here’s a 1995 live version, more familiar to my ears, with less stoned behavior, but some odd hand motions.
…Wearing a blue silk floral poet’s blouse, peach bellbottoms, and some superfly chunky platform heels that I can’t get a good look at. Oh yeah, and he’s singing an acoustic live version of Space Oddity too.
I’m making a digital set with a gingerbread house, chocolate pond, marshmallow cliffs, whipped cream trees — in short, a fanciful landscape formed entirely of sweets. During my work, I have been thinking about other worlds made of food, including Hasbro’s board game Candy Land, the cottage encountered by Hansel and Gretel in the fairy tale, and the edible forest in the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain.”
At least in the examples of Hansel and Gretel and “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” the food landscape represents a sort of macabre “hunger horror.” The theme of food/hunger runs throughout Hansel and Gretel. The children use a trail of bread crumbs to lead them back home, but the crumbs are eaten by the birds, leaving the children lost and starving; they encounter the old woman when they start eating her house made of food; the old woman wants to turn Hansel into food, so she fattens him up in a cage; finally, when the woman prepares to cook Hansel, Gretel shoves her into the oven instead, thus putting the woman on the menu instead of the kid.
You can tell that Hansel and Gretel reflects the kids’ own food insecurity because everything coded as food is…well…insecure. They depend on bread crumbs to save them, but birds take away this food from them. The edible house may satisfy their empty bellies, but chewing on it leads to their imprisonment. The old woman then begins her project of turning Hansel into food, and she can only be defeated by being cooked herself. Food betrays Hansel and Gretel at every turn. It fails at its express purpose — to provide nourishment and continual survival — and instead leads Hansel and Gretel toward greater threat and possible death. The portrayal of food as an actively hostile force is why I call this “hunger horror.”
In contrast, “Big Rock Candy Mountain” seems, at first glance, a much less horrific text, a merry list of the edible features of the aforesaid mountain: “Oh the buzzing of the bees / In the cigarette trees / And the soda water fountain / By the lemonade springs / Where the bluebird sings / In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.” Most people these days know just about that much of the lyrics, leading them to cast it as a nonsense song…which is probably why I grew up listening to this song on a children’s record. [The “cigarette trees” may have been censored, however.] Beyond the chorus, though, the first verse features an itinerant homeless man singing “Of the land of milk and honey / Where a bum can stay / For many a day / And they don’t have any money.” As the rest of the song clarifies, “Big Rock Candy Mountain” is a wish fulfillment song for people who want food and shelter. The horror lies in the blatant, obvious artificiality of the fantasy [everything’s made out of food, i.e., processed], which suggests that the hobo’s dream of having his basic needs met will never come true.
Songs, like poetry, don’t always translate well. Stephen Torrence’s translation of Jonathan Coulton’s “Re: Your Brains” into American Sign Language, however, captures the rhythm, tone, and low-key humor perfectly.
I really, really, really dislike Neil Diamond. All his stuff just sounds to me like a long, soulful whinge, which is attractive to some people, but not me. I could handle the droning whines if it weren’t for songs like Play Me, which contains the immortal words:
Song she sang to me
Song she brang to me
Words that rang in me
Rhyme that sprang from me
Warmed the night
And what was right
As far as I’m concerned, this verse illustrates just how creatively bankrupt he is. All his failings are encapsulated in the word "brang." The older I get, the less of a linguistic prescriptivist I am and the more of a laissez-faire descriptivist, but this "brang" deeply irritates me. Using apostrophes for pluralization, deploying "unique" as a synonym of unusual, saying "literally" when one means "figuratively" — all of these grammatical solecisms that it’s fashionable to rant against do not offend me to the core the way that Neil Diamond’s "brang" does.
Why do I have such a problem with "brang?" Well, clearly he’s not using it as part of a character’s particular voice, as it’s the only non-standard past participle in the song, so he’s using it as a songwriter. He obviously knows the correct past participle, as he sings repeatedly in You Got to Me that "You brought me to my knees." Thus the "brang" is a fully intentional artistic choice.
I could accept "brang" as an on-purpose use if it served some sort of coherent aesthetic program, but it doesn’t. It just rhymes with "sang," "rang" and "sprang." "I used it because it rhymes" can be an acceptable justification for certain vocabulary, but only if you really need that word there. This verse does not need "brang" or, indeed, the whole "Song she brang to me" line. The verse could go as follows without a problem:
Song she sang to me
Words that rang in me
Rhyme that sprang from me
Warmed the night
And what was right
This verse says the exact same thing as the version up above. The singer receives a song as a gift from a woman. It enters his soul and affects him deeply, calling forth an answering rhyme from him. He feels perfect and right in his union with her.
Unfortunately, Neil Diamond is not taking my lyrical advice. He’d rather inflict us with "brang," which, being narratively unjustified, stands out harshly as a gratuitous mangling of an innocent past participle. He uses "brang" because he likes it and because he’s so unreasonably attached to it that he can’t excise it, even though its loss would improve the whole song. "I like it, and it sounds nice" is not an acceptable justification for retaining wretched prose or lyrics.
Neil Diamond is like the personification of anti-rap. Rap epitomizes a high-flying, experimental spirit of rapid-fire linguistic invention in which endless play with vocabulary, stress and meter often reveals surprising and illuminating connections between phrases and concepts. Someone with some actual talent could rap that whole verse, including "brang," and it wouldn’t be a shitty invented past participle, but an echo of the ringing that touches the speaker so intimately that it changes even the most ordinary words into bell-like sounds. Sadly, however, Neil Diamond does not have that talent. His "brang" depends not on linguistic inventiveness, but on a stale, stagnant affection for a sound he couldn’t let go.
Men Without Hats’ video for Pop Goes the World mostly. Ivan Doroschuk starts out looking kinda tough with his black leather jacket, shredded leggings and stern, angular face. Then the bubble machine starts, and he begins to dance with his usual groovy abandon as the most painfully literal interpretation of the lyrics occurs. [For example, "One two three and four is five / Everybody here is a friend of mine" is accompanied by someone drawing five hatch marks on a chalkboard.] Furthermore, it’s obvious that no one is playing the instruments they’re holding. I think this video was filmed for about $100.00 Canadian, $50.00 of which went to space rental and the other $50.00 of which went to the bubble machine. I love you, Men Without Hats, and I like this song, but this is just a hilariously bad effort.
Journey’s song "Separate Ways [Worlds Apart]" came on one of Janna’s Pandora stations a few days ago. A few lines caught in my head ["If he ever hurts you / True love won’t desert you"], but I didn’t know the source. So I banged out the words into a search engine and came up with the full set of lyrics, which I will now summarize as follows:
I’m so obsessed with you that I’ve been monitoring your activities since our breakup. "You’ll never walk alone" — literally. I’ll be watching through my binoculars — you and your current partner. If he ever hurts you, I’ll be right there to comfort you…also to lay the hurt on him for mistreating you. In summary, I am a dangerous, deeply deluded misogynist who is very likely to kill you and your partner once I’m done wailing about how much I love you.
I would really like to believe that, like Sting’s Every Breath You Take, Separate Ways is actually supposed to be a disturbing evocation of obsessive, abusive behavior, but I can find no evidence.
I’m deeply saddened that I find this noteworthy, but I have to say that, in my albeit limited survey of Queen’s music, I have found remarkably little in the way of condescension, objectification and misogyny directed toward women in their songs. I’m still waiting in dread for the inevitable sexist stereotypes to crop up and drop my opinion of them, but so far they seem on a level with Men Without Hats. That is, they care less about slagging more than half the population and more about doing what they love: making music!
Take, for example, Queen’s Killer Queen. It’s a character sketch of a rich, powerful woman who has expensive tastes and an indomitable will. After an enumeration of her expensive preferences in company and cuisine, the lyrics describe her as "Dynamite with a laser beam / Guaranteed to blow your mind / Anytime" — i.e., she’s attractive and sexually powerful, but she doesn’t threaten, piss off or annoy the speaker. He calls her "dynamite," in the sense of "highly skilled at what she does," "sexy" and "explosively awesome." He wants her to blow his mind!
Even the verse in which she’s compared to a cat comes across as laudatory. While woman:cat similes tend to connote peevish competitiveness [cattiness] and sexual objectification [qua pussy cat], the simile here calls the woman "playful as a pussy cat." The verse describes how she pursues the speaker avidly, then suddenly stops, "temporarily out of gas." The speaker recognizes that she’s playing a game — "all out to get you" — but doesn’t think she’s a cocktease or playing hard to get. No, he goes along, happy to play with the woman. The song ends with an acknowledgment of the woman’s irresistible effect on the speaker ["Recommended at any price"], as well as listeners ["Wanna try? / You wanna try…"]. It’s very obvious that the song Killer Queen is sung as a tribute by a dude who desires, respects and perhaps even loves a woman for traits that other people would probably deride.
…People like, for example, the Rolling Stones. The Stones’ analogue to Killer Queen would have to be Stupid Girl, in which the singer sketches a character similar to the Killer Queen. The woman in Stupid Girl dresses expensively, values material goods ["…she digs for gold"], pursues men aggressively ["…she grabs and holds"], etc. The singer even trots out a feline simile: "She purrs like a pussy cat / Then turns round and hisses back." Heck, the Killer Queen and the Stupid Girl are probably the same person, just described from different points of view.
While the speaker in Killer Queen thinks that the woman is the best partner he’s had, the speaker in Stupid Girl absolutely loathes the woman. It’s right there in the title of the song! Finally, the comparison of the woman to "a lady-in-waiting to a virgin queen" implies that she’s close to power, but actually lacking it, really just a glorified servant. Furthermore, the virginity of the queen in the simile passes by association onto the woman, connoting sexual inexperience, coldness and inaccessibility. The speaker clearly can’t stand the fact that he desires this woman, so he projects all his hostility onto her and vilifies her for being interested in people other than himself. [Gee, I wonder why? He’s such a catch! :p ]
In my imagination, this is how the story goes: There’s a young woman — let’s say her name is Regina 😉 — born into wealth and power. She’s neither particularly good nor particularly bad, neither particularly selfish nor unselfish, just a person of average character. She really enjoys her material privileges, though. She knows that her wealth and attractiveness give her a certain license, so she exploits this in her active, assertive search for romantic and sexual partners. She always has the flashiest and latest and best and most expensive of everything, and she carefully, deliberately cultivates her status as trendsetter. She holds meetings with her staff, for example, where they go over long-range ramifications of, say, choosing vegetarianism. For another example, she has a panel of people who critique every outfit she wears, looking not only for high quality, coordination, fashionability, originality and daring, but also for rip-offs, appropriation, offensiveness, copyright infringement, etc. Regina has a reputation for being somewhat mysterious and reclusive, but this is mostly because she spends so much time analyzing every more in private before she makes it in public.
Regina’s work pays off. People wear what she wears, eat what she eats, travel where she travels, support the causes she supports, While not an actor or singer or model or fashion designer or hereditary titled person, Regina hangs out with all the coolest of all these groups, or, more precisely, they seem to hang out with her because they want her awesomeness by association. In short, she has become one of the most powerful people in the country. As a style icon, she has enormous influence to shape the most basic aspects of people’s lives, from the contents of their closets to their moral considerations. Regina shamelessly enjoys this power.
There are two people — let’s call them Freddie and Mick 😉 — who represent the divergent opinions that the public has about Regina. Freddie recognizes Regina’s achievements. He understands that people in Regina’s position are neither inherently sexy nor glamorous and that Regina has carefully crafted the role of style icon for herself. He realizes that the creation and maintenance of such a status requires a lot of time, money and energy, and he’s impressed by her ambition, acumen, intelligence and hard work. He notes that, while she does not have a traditionally defined profession, she has turned "style icon" into her own demanding, full-time job. And, of course, like many people, Freddie feels the effects of Regina’s glamour. Her quick movement through dating/bed partners just proves to him that she’s admirably lusty, playful, fun-loving, probably "dynamite" 😀 in the sack and exhausting to anyone she moves on from. He lusts after her; he has a huge crush on her; he thinks she’s amazing and really enjoys their friends with benefits hook-ups. If anything, he has a little hero worship going on that keeps him from seeing Regina as an imperfect person, like him.
On the other hand, Mick contemns Regina as an airhead heiress who does nothing and is famous for being famous. In his eyes, she wastes her fortune on trivial tokens of femininity, like clothes and cosmetics. Her assertive pursuit of sexual and romantic partners makes him think that she’s a slutty whore…and also a frigid b***h because she declined to date him after having sex one night. He hates her because she’s a woman who has the temerity to be happy without him in her life. It goes without saying that Mick is, of course, a miserable, wretched excuse for a human being. :p
Freddie Mercury and Queen doing Another One Bites the Dust. I love Freddie Mercury. He has just such an amazing amount of irrepressible JOY in his performances. He moves with such grace and poise and control — everything he does on stage is dancing!
Goofin’ off with We Are the Champions. So caught up that he starts air guitaring with the mike stand again. ^_^
That song always gives me chills, forever and ever, and it gives me further chills to hear Nirvana cover it.
And here’s DB himself, covering it acoustically, probably during the Earthling years [aka The Time of the Nasty Nasty Soul Spot].
He covered it live at the Beeb a few years later in 2000 [the Neo-Scrawny Years] with that unforgettable Bowie smile.
I’ve been listening to Classic Queen on heavy rotation for the past few days. After grossing out about my favorite songs with stalking in them, I am pleased to note that, at least on this album, Queen avoids that trope. In fact, their lyrics even bend the gendered norms in some cases, describing romantic experiences of one gender in terms usually reserved for another.
Example 1: One Year of Love. The singer says, “It’s always a rainy day without you / I’m a prisoner of love inside you / I’m falling apart all around you / And all I can do is surrender to your love.” Assuming that this is a man singing to a woman [hooray for heteronormativity -_- ], this is very unusual language for the masculine narrator. The typical masculine experience of love involves pursuit, penetration and conquering. The singer, however, describes imprisonment, dissolution and submission — traits much more commonly associated with the feminine experience of love.
Example 2: Tie Your Mother Down. At the end of the song, after urging the listener to get her family members out of the way so that she and the singer can screw, the singer says, “Give me all your love tonight / Give me every inch of your love.” In the vast majority of rock songs sung by dudes, if there’s “love” with any dimensions associated, it just means “penis.” [See Not Fade Away by Buddy Holly: “My love’s penis is bigger than a Cadillac / I try to show it, but you drive me back.” Just stop stalking her already!] Therefore the attribution of a quantified love to the singer’s addressee [presumed female] is unusual. The feminine action of loving is described in more masculine terms. I have no grand conclusion, especially not based on these two examples, but they sure make me like Queen even more!
I realize that a bunch of songs by my favorite artists are about stalking. For example, Love Is Strong by the Rolling Stones. "A glimpse of you / Is all it took / A stranger’s glance / It got me hooked…" Mick Jagger sings, then detailing how he follows the woman for vast distances. For another example, Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran. "Burn through the ground / Break from the crowd / I’m on the hunt; I’m after you…" Duran Duran sings. In the second example, the man is literally chasing the woman, trying to run her down. She’s trying to escape, probably in fear for her life, if not her safety, and it’s a poppy, upbeat New Wave hit!
Stalking songs disturb me differently than domestic violence songs [e.g., the Rolling Stones’ Under My Thumb or There She Goes by the Velvet Underground]. In the domestic violence songs I listen to, the abuse is framed as part of a dysfunctional relationship. Somehow this lets me critique it more effectively. In stalking songs, though, the abuse appears as an acceptable behavior in the context of a two-way, loving relationship. This is false on two counts because a) it’s an unacceptable behavior in any context and b) there’s no two-way, much less loving, relationship in the stalking songs. It’s an entirely imaginary relationship based on misogynist objectification. The singers of stalking songs seem so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they are more impervious to critique.
Earlier today I mentioned Jareth in the same entry as various theatrically costumed rock stars from the mid-1970s. I think David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and probably Adam Ant [though not from the 1970s] would approve of the get-up below.
Continue reading Smashing!: Jareth’s latest outfit
…with flame fringe on the kirtle sleeves and bellbottoms, not to mention the neckline that plunges somewhere into the region of the crotch. That certain type of person is Freddie Mercury.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for someone to wear a striped vinyl jumpsuit with integrated platform shoes and a similar neckline, you’re looking for David Bowie.
And if you’re looking for someone whose idea of smashing constitutes a purple Rococo pompadour, a feathered ruff, skin-tight pants and thigh-high ballet boots, just hang in there — I’m rendering him tonight. :p
Now watching Queen’s Legendary concert from 1975, I see Freddie Mercury playing air guitar with his mike stand, just like he was 10 years later, during Live Aid. Even rock stars can’t resist the power of the air guitar ’cause it’s so damn cool! 😀
While watching the music video for We Will Rock You, I can’t help but notice the difference between Freddie Mercury’s moves and those of the rest of the band. Though the guitarist does get his groove on during the solo at the end, most of the band just stand there stiffly, moving no more than necessary. Meanwhile Freddie Mercury is performing in inimitable Freddie Mercury fashion.
I was going to compare him to my usual referents — you know, Ivan Doroschuk, Mick Jagger, Tim Curry — but I really can’t because he’s in a league of his own. Ivan Doroschuk moves, but he does more flailing and bouncing. Mick Jagger and Tim Curry make faces, but I don’t think of them as so completely self-possessed as Freddie Mercury. He demonstrates absolute control in every expression and motion of his limbs: a combination of fluid precision and sheer joy of motion. Kind of like Shirley Bassey or Lesley Gore. And his voice is incredible. The more I think about it, the more apt a comparison is between Freddie Mercury and Shirley Bassey — both fabulous performers with stunningly powerful voices and charismatic stage presences whose love for what they do so clearly shines through in every word they sing.
Queer interpretation of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know. The facial expressions and acting make it all clear here — person 1 is a whiny, self-entitled creep, and person 2 is liberated upon ridding their life of them.
Solo interpretation of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody…with bonus translation in notes. Performer’s facial expressions and body language during guitar solos show how much fun he’s having!
Both of these translations illustrate how putting a song into a different language change, transfigure and enhance it.
I’ve been thinking that Boys Keep Swinging [discussed previously in relation to how much I was salivating over David Bowie] is obviously about butches cruising for femmes. It just makes so much sense! Butch power!!
When you’re a butch
You can wear a uniform
When you’re a butch
Other butches check you out
You get a girl
These are your favorite things
When you’re a butch
I think this music video needs to be redone with a femme lead vocalist and butch backup singers. How awesome would that be?
That’s what I like in this Boys Keep Swinging [David Bowie] music video. Posture, gait, the size and shape of gestures — all these little details develop different personalities.
I wish I could make my dolls move differently, but they don’t move. Guess they’ll just have to stand and sit and be still differently, which they do. Examples abound in the latest survey of small populations, where especially those in the "dolls who bug me" and "Zombieville" categories evince their personalities through their posture.
Judging from their body language, an inordinate number of my dolls appear to think that they’re fabulous: Anneka, Frank 1:6, Jareth 1:6, Will, Jareth regular, Peekaboo, Lucian, Béatrice, Isabel, AJ regular. Out of all the postures in the "all my dolls" series, I most like Janvier Jett’s [because she looks like she’s about to speaek], Jareth’s [because he looks like he’s up to something, which he always is], Sardonix’ [because she just looks so completely unimpressed with anyone’s bullshit], Dillon [because he’s just chillin’ casually] and Steampink AJ’s [because she just looks so serenely superior].
David Bowie, almost certainly somewhere in the 1970s, possibly in concert?
EDIT: Google Image Search identifies this picture as him on the set of the Boys Keep Swinging video, 1979.
…androgynous dude with black leather, studs, whip and heavy eyeliner, not to mention killer balletic dance moves. Sexy, maybe, but not bad.
P.S. Yes, we all see your crotch. It’s kind of impossible NOT to in those pants.
P.P.S. How did I not see this video of yours until now?
[goes to watch Thriller]
I thought it just ended up sounding gay. But no, it’s gay. [The bit about coming out of the closet should have tipped me off. :p] It’s from the La Cage aux Folles musical, which is about gay dudes, and it happens to have been written by a gay dude. It turned even gayer when Gloria Gaynor did a single of it.
P.S. How awesome [+ hot] is Gloria Gaynor?!
She has such a strong voice, relishing every word she hurls forth. I love that rich underlining that her voice gets when she draws out words. She has such a strong, solid, expressive body, made for propelling out song. I love her self-consciously hammy, dramatic little gestures when she sings, as in this 1974 rendition of Goldfinger ["Goooooooooooooooooldfingaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"]. She also has a marvelous sense of humor; look at her glee as she combines sex appeal and playfulness when singing Big Spender in 2001! Like Leslie Gore, she enjoys herself so much when she sings. You can tell that she’s working hard, but loving every minute of it.
I don’t think I could stand it if Lesley Gore and Shirley Bassey did a duet. I think my ears would explode from the combined power and sexiness of their voices.
She makes me actually like the song. I always thought that the lyrics were, "I’m coming out, so you’d better get this party started."
The mist, masks and mirrors are making me think that someone needs to mash this cover up with images from the ballroom scene in Labyrinth.
I have developed a HUGE crush on Lesley Gore. I could watch her sing all day, even if it’s heteronormative bullshit. She sings with such power and force, propelling the words out from inside her with irresistible potency. That voice could knock down walls. She’s amazing!
Here’s Lesley Gore doing You Don’t Own Me in 1989 with the same expressive passion that she imbued the performance I recently mentioned. I love the way she bounces on her toes, as if the force of her voice is going to sweep her off her feet. She looks so grounded and so powerful.
This video of Lesley Gore, most likely around 17 or 18, singing You Don’t Own Me live, fascinates me. She sings with such joy and passion and expressiveness; she clearly loves to sing! Plus she’s hot; I love her baggy eyes and her long straight nose and her rectangular face and those amazing flickery eyebrows. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s one of us. 😀
Pandora thinks they are. I always thought they were Brit punk. Maybe they’re New Wave Brit punk?
EDIT: And the Ramones? My definition of New Wave must differ from theirs.
I’ve been holding onto it for all these years, when all I really want is the track listing and order, so here it is:
- These Are Days by 10,000 Maniacs
- A Case of You by Joni Mitchell
- Naked Eye by Luscious Jackson
- Walk This World by Heather Nova
- Dolphin by Poe
- More by Tara MacLean
- Five String Serenade by Mazzy Star
- Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell
- Fast Car by Tracy Chapman
- Airplane by the Indigo Girls
- Tennessee by Arrested Development
- I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan
- Deadman’s Hill by the Indigo Girls
- I Will Not Forget You by Sarah McLachlan
- Natural by Arrested Development
- Circle Dream by 10,000 Maniacs
- Walking Higher by Heather Nova
- Ghost by the Indigo Girls
- Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell
- Truth and Bone by Heather Nova
- For You by Tara MacLean
I forgot how hilarious the Foremen’s Hard Time to Be a Man was.
Now, this bar graph represents the thought processes of the average American male in 1957. We see, in descending order of importance, sex, sports, cars, and sex in sports cars.
But things have changed since the enlightenment, as illustrated by this 1993 bar graph showing that men now think about sex, sports, cars, and promoting the wellness of the planet and the humanness of all people by creating a caring and nurturing environment in which to have sex in sports cars.
P.S. How ’bout them Niners?
Mose Allison’s My Brain is my current favorite song, which I’ve been hearing regularly on Jazz 24. Here’s an article about Allison’s continuing status as a living jazz legend, even past the age of 83, which is when he wrote My Brain. And here’s a studio recording. Lyrics are in the top comment by High Northerner. Here’s a live version. It’s all the sharper for being sung by a man near the end of his life. If Zombieville had an official song, this would be it: a gallows humor celebration of life.
You’re nice to listen to on occasion, despite your sick views of heterosexual love, but sometimes I really don’t get you. For example, in So Cruel, you sing:
Oh love, like a screaming flower
Love, dying every hour
Seriously? What does that even mean? I assume you’re talking about Bob the Angry Flower, but that really doesn’t make much sense.
…Oh. I get it. You just wanted something to rhyme with “hour,” didn’t you?
Some time ago, I created a Youtube playlist based on a concert DVD of Men Without Hats entitled Live Hats, and I love it. In concert, Men Without Hats sound less poppy and harsher, more experimental. Unfortunately, I don't know of any concert recordings of Men Without Hats, with the exception of Live Hats, which is only available on DVD, not CD, hence my constant resort to this playlist. Whenever I need some background music, I just cue this playlist up, and it automatically makes me happy. ^_^
P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU IVAN DOROSCHUK!!!!
Known online for being the Trololo Man, Russian singer Eduard Khil died yesterday. I didn't know about his iconic video until recently, which is too bad because, every time I see it, it makes me smile. Even though he's singing nonsense syllables instead of censored lyrics, Khil just looks so damn ebullient and joyful. How can you resist that?
This video, set to a Proclaimers song, just makes me so happy to see how much fun the cast and crew of David Tennant's Dr. Who run are having! Look at David Tennant's expressions when the Proclaimers themselves come on!
An extended pun, done to death, then revived and driven to death repeatedly. A zombie pun! More from Da Vinci’s Notebook.
…Brought to you by DaVinci’s Notebook’s The Title of the Song. Favorite line: "Drop to my knees to elicit crowd response." The same group also has in their repertoire a host of other humorous a cappella songs.
Also in the same vein is Britanick’s Trailer for Every Oscar-Winning Film Ever. The accuracy of the parody is marred by useless ableism ["Said retard is now in your custody"]. Phooey. Why does otherwise good humor have to be so corrupted?
Watched some parts of L just now and came to the conclusion that the songs detract from the stated goal of a children’s didactic fantasy film. More specifically, David Bowie detracts from the stated goal of a children’s didactic fantasy film. As a rock superstar, he required superstar-sized billing in the film, skewing the film away from the simpler morality tale of Sarah learning altruism through rescuing her brother from the clutches of Immature Childish Fantasy. Continue reading The songs of Labyrinth belong to a different movie.
I can’t find video of Richard O’Brien’s Dammit Janet [Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975], but I found Billy Idol’s White Wedding (1982). All the weirdos in the church, plus the juxtaposition of coffins and marriage, made me think of Dammit Janet. Billy Idol does an interesting job of fusing both the Brad and the Frank characters in this video…mostly Frank, given the vamping. It is also possible that he is a vampire, although I may be anachronistically projecting from a certain vampiric character [Spike in BTVS] that clearly ripped off his look.
…Wow, Billy Idol remade Mony Mony? All I’ve heard is the original. Maybe I need to investigate his
sneer hair washboard abs music some more.
Today’s New Wave comments: Dancing With Myself is about masturbation. Safety Dance, besides being about safe sex, is the least interesting Men Without Hats song ever. In comparison to the rest of their thoughtful, poppy, odd oeuvre, it’s dull and predictable.
I liked Mylene Farmer’s music before I saw her music videos, but now, having seen a few vids, I like her more. In this music vid, Live a Bercy, she sings Sans Contrefacon to hordes of rythmically waving, singing-along groupies. Well, I think she’s singing. Given her sinuous dancing, she could be lip-synching. She radiates a great amount of energy, charisma and simple joy to be performing. At the end, when she is singing out to the audience, who answers her, I think she’s laughing; she appears to be elated.
Also I like the back-up dancers.
Click below for lyrics to a defiant genderfucking song!
Not only is Ivan Doroschuk hot, energetic and smirky, with a shuddersomely wonderful voice, but he’s also…GASP…a feminist! Hey Men kind of blows my mind, being as it is a song about respecting women and children and, for men, embracing a wider, more compassionate definition of masculinity. No wonder this song never made any hit lists.
EDIT: This just in. Ivan Doroschuk is also a great big geek. He has been known to jump around in circles singing ["Tell me tell me tell me where do the boys go?!"] regularly and play air guitar at his own shows.
EDIT EDIT: I’m gonna have to buy the Live Hats concert DVD and somehow get the music off it. Here’s another awesome tune — Security — about being haunted by one’s confidence. And here’s the creepy original, apparently not available on CD anywhere.
EDIT EDIT EDIT: If I made a 1:6 Ivan Doroschuk, it would fail to capture his appeal because much of his magnetism comes from the sheer abandon with which he flings himself about in spasmodic blitheness.
His voice gives me chills; also, he manages to look like he’s glowering and having fun at the same time.
As a movie, Underworld did not interest me, despite the presence of vampires, werewolves, Bill Nighy and lots of corsetry. In fact, it punished my senses, so I turned it off, bored, halfway through. I do, however, enjoy the soundtrack. In fact, I play it regularly when working on LHF. It reminds me of the sort of music that vampires would play ironically.
Listening to the soundtrack for the first Underworld is a schizophrenic experience. On one hand, the listing boasts some of the most beautiful and haunting pieces of melancholia ever to cross my ears, such as the Loner Mix of David Bowie’s Disco King, in which his light, fatigued voice adds textures of regret and longing to a song that’s already creepy. I also really like Suicide Note by Johnette Napolitano, in which the singer expresses her impotent sadness at a friend’s self-destruction: “I wanted to believe / You would win / The war in your head / That I did not understand.” I also just love Awakening by the Damning Well, especially for its pounding bass line and the lyric “I realize that I miss being human.”
At the same time, the disc also holds a crapload of sheer turds. Lisa Germano’s From A Shell features the hilarious and inane repetition of “It’s the buzz,” which really adds nothing to the song. I’m not sure whether Puscifer is purposely going over the top in Rev 22:20 [“Jesus is risen / It’s no surprise / Even he would martyr his mama / To ride to hell between those thighs” = boring], but I like to think that they are, which makes their blatantly obvious use of religious terms a bit more forgivable. Meanwhile, Judith by A Perfect Circle, despite being eminently singable [unlike much of the stuff on this CD], makes my ears bleed by singing, “Fuck your god!” and not doing anything with the sentiment except for flogging it to death and back. Fuck your song, Perfect Circle. I’m not even mentioning the songs that are so bad that I deleted them from my hard drive so I’d never have to hear them again.
Incidentally, it’s been about two years since the appearance of Underworld: Evolution. The third movie should be lurching forth soon enough so that we may drive a stake through its heart and a silver bullet through its eye, thus killing the cumbersome franchise dead for good.
I need to get the Crow movie soundtrack [I think]. Maybe I should watch the Crow original movie too…
…I finally have enough skills to realize a project that has been bugging me for years: my music video to I Go Wild. Of course, it would be like a movie slide show because I refuse to animate it [it would take years], but I could do it nonetheless!! It’s a great excuse to get a straitjacket and some fiendish devices. [It’s a toss-up between MADLAB-4 and the Re-education thingy.] Alas, alas, no one would ever see it unless they personally came over to my home computer and looked at it because there is no way that I would put anything so explicit up on the Web.
I’m really looking forward to illustrating…
You left me; I’m braindead
I’m feelin’ nothing, strapped to my bed
On life support, tubes in my nose
Tubes in my arms, shot full of holes
In other, not really related news, Sadotronic would be a great name for a band, preferably a Norwegian death metal one that thinks it’s really edgy and blasphemous.
I made this on Friday, but didn’t get to put it up till today. I’m so witty I can’t stand myself.
I thought of another one.
SURVEY by L. Jordan and B. Austin
Question: Is you my baby?
You is _____
You ain’t _____
…In which people create graphs, charts and other graphics to illustrate song lyrics, I offer unto you Mr. Jagger’s agenda. [For more examples of this meme by other people, check out this Flickr group.]
I really like this song, but I keep forgetting that I like it, so, when I play it, it ambushes me with its emotional punch. The lyrics draw from the standard tropes about love and loss, but the way in which she knits them together makes them tender, weary and infinitely melancholy all at the same time. The dirge-like tempo underscores the sadness, while the clarity of her voice embodies the spirit of affection. Plus the title indicates that it’s about vampires, although nothing in the song specifies that. What more could I ask for?
Come into these arms again
And lay your body down
The rhythm of this trembling heart
Is beating like a drum
It beats for you – It bleeds for you
It knows not how it sounds
For it is the drum of drums
It is the song of songs…
Once I had the rarest rose
That ever deigned to bloom.
Cruel winter chilled the bud
And stole my flower too soon.
Oh loneliness – oh hopelessness
To search the ends of time
For there is in all the world
No greater love than mine.
Love, oh love, oh love…
Still falls the rain… (still falls the rain)
Love, oh love, oh, love…
Still falls the night…
Love, oh love, oh love…
Be mine forever…. (be mine forever)
Love, oh love, oh love….
Let me be the only one
To keep you from the cold
Now the floor of heaven’s lain
With stars of brightest gold
They shine for you – they shine for you
They burn for all to see
Come into these arms again
And set this spirit free
…please marvel at the music video for Dionysos’ Tais Toi Mon Coeur. Just in case you couldn’t figure it out from the associated pictures, Tais Toi Mon Coeur is French for, literally, Be Quiet, My Heart. In the dismissive, bouncy tone of the song, it can better be translated as Fuck Off, Heart. The animation reminds me of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride or The Nightmare Before Christmas. It looks like it’s acted out by Victorian automatons. The general ambiance smells like Poe or Baudelaire, with that sort of cheer in gloominess. For some reason, it also reminds me of the BTVS ep Once More With Feeling and Spike singing to Buffy. Then, of course, there are the generally fascinating allusions to death, resurrection, self-objectification and mannequinization [which should be a word if it isn’t]. All in all, it’s quite an entertaining little number. I like the little wire-and-wood articulated hands and the shadowed eyelids the best. Clunky translation of lyrics here.
Rammstein’s Mein Herz Brennt appears in the Hellboy 2 trailer! Appropriately enough for a movie about supernatural characters from Hell, some of the lyrics go:
Sie kommen zu euch in der Nacht
Dämonen Geister schwarze Feen
sie kriechen aus dem Kellerschacht
und werden unter euer Bettzeug sehen
They come to you in the night —
Demons, ghosts, darkling fae
They creep out from the cellar shaft
And spy under your bedclothes
I’m over my Rammstein obsession, and I’m not particularly thrilled by the Hellboy series, but I do think that Rammstein and Hellboy are a perfect marriage of tongue-in-cheek, mordant humor and comic-bookish violence.
Right here is an example of how a song originally done by John Lennon as a light, uplifting, optimistic, sincere, profoundly joyful song can be turned into the trudging, ominous dirge of recruiting cult zombies. It’s not just the minor keys, the slow-down and the slowly, painfully thrashing drums. It’s the way that the vocalist flattens his voice and draws out the least expected words — “Imagine all the peeeeeeople…” Yeah, “imagine all the people” all right. When they’re done listening to this song, they’ll be too brainwashed to imagine anything. It’s pretty awesome as reinterpretations go. Listen to it.
Okay, for all that he kinda whines in his earlier albums, I still think Marilyn Manson is cool because he’s really smart and thoughtful and coherent and also, more to the point here, I greatly admire his sense of style. He does rock-star drag oh so very well, and he applies his makeup with a trowel. In this sense, he reminds me of a Ziggy-era David Bowie, only less of a fashion plate and more of a flamboyant costume-jewelry type. Check out, for example, the teeth this this cover of Tainted Love.
I don’t care about the band or the song, but the cinematography and use of shadows here in this Inverse Order music video demonstrates just how expressive and unsettling mannequins can be. I need more mannequins [with heads!] in my life.
She’s the one!
She went and joined the army, passed the medical…don’t ask me how it’s done!
She’s got medals…
–David Bowie, She’s Got Medals
That’s one of my most favorite songs ever, especially the bouncy tone in which it’s sung. It’s from his early years, when many of his songs sounded like nursery rhymes or children’s play songs, even as they addressed child rape and murder (Please Mr. Gravedigger), sexual masochism (Little Toy Soldier), depressed veterans (Little Bombardier) and stupid people using drugs (Join the Gang). He was just around 20 when composing and singing most of these songs, and he just sounds so gleeful about the whole business.
Oh right…I was going to write about a blog I found. First off, let me recommend Helen Boyd’s book, My Husband Betty. It’s about her relationship with her cross-dressing husband. I think this is one of the strongest books on sexuality that I have ever read because the author describes her ambivalence very well, as well as her confusion about the sex and gender significance of cross-dressing. Also, she writes strongly, with psychological and critical insight, not to mention emotional balance, even as she describes emotional tumult. Anyway, she has a blog, (en)Gender, about trans news and debates and media and topics, and I’m poking in it now.
So there are your three recommendations for today: She’s Got Medals by David Bowie, My Husband Betty by Helen Boyd and (en)Gender, also by Helen Boyd.
…listening to the What We Do For Love ep, and a song by Christine Lavin came on, Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind. I now want to find out more about her because of these hilarious lyrics:
I am eating sushi
When I do not like sushi
But he loves sushi
And I love him
I’m poking with a chopstick
At a living breathing fishstick
Oh my God!
I think it’s trying to swim
HAH! I must investigate her albums.
Home At Last, from Labyrinth. This is actually an instrumental that plays when Sarah is putting away her toys and pictures. It’s a very slow, tinkly version of As the World Falls Down, also known as the Jareth Is Dead Instrumental. You see why I hate it?
Superheroes, from Rocky Horror. This is the song that Brad and Janet sing in the wreckage of the Frankenstein Place as it’s blasting off to a distant planet. Also known as the Frank Is Dead Song. Of course it depresses me.
However, for sheer slit-your-wrists despair, nothing beats the cover of Mad World on the Donnie Darko soundtrack. The original by Tears For Fears balances mopey lyrics with a surprisingly up-tempo beat so that the song veers between precious and poignant, making it a perfect evocation of teenage self-consciousness. The Donnie Darko version strips away almost all instrumentation, leaving just the singer’s quiet, steady voice. It is the naked, vulnerable personification of melancholy. I’ve listened to it on repeat, and every single time it gives me chills of beauty and gloom.
Are you grieving the loss of a friend, a lover, your youth, your mentor, your home town, the person you used to be? My current radio addiction, WGBH’s Sound & Spirit, has quite a few episodes related to death and change. Start with Breakups and Nostalgia, which address the losses of daily life. Then move on to Aging and Facing Death as you approach a blatant confrontation with the loss. For the loss itself, play The End of the World. Then go into Mourning & Loss and Ghosts for when you feel haunted. To reconnect with your hope, finish with The Afterlife and get back to the joyful business of living the life that lies before you.
This entry is dedicated to my grandfather, who died a month before Christmas last year.
Three o’clock in the morning
It’s quiet and there’s no one around
Just the bang and the clatter
As an angel runs to ground
–Stay (Faraway, So Close), by U2
Well now, it’s three o’clock in the morning
And I can’t even close my eyes.
Three o’clock in the morning
And I can’t even close my eyes.
Can’t find my baby
And I can’t be satisfied.
–Three O’Clock Blues, BB King
The telephone is ringing I say, Hi, it’s me. Who is it there on the line
A voice says, Hi, hello, how are you
Well, I guess I’m doin’ fine
He says, It’s three a.m., there’s too much noise
Don’t you people ever wanna go to bed
Just ’cause you feel so good, do you have to drive me out of my head
–Get Off Of My Cloud, Rolling Stones
Well it’s three o’clock in the mornin’
Baby, I just can’t do right
Well, I hate to leave you, baby
I don’t mean maybe
Because I love you so
–Good Night Sweetheart, the Spaniels
Three o' clock in the morning
You get a phone call from the queen
With a horde of heads
She says that they’re all dead
–Return to Oz, Scissor Sisters
It’s three o’clock in the morning, ship time,
Only five more hours to go.
How many miles will pass before us,
How many years will pass below?
–Starlight and Saxophone, Tom Smith
It’s 3:00 A.M.
I’m awake and my heart is still dreaming
It’s 3:00 A.M.
Outside I hear the souls still screaming
It’s been so long you know since my head’s been this clear
Just like a ship lost in the night
I just don’t know which way I should steer
–3:00 AM, Edwin McCain
she says baby
it’s 3 am I must be lonely
when she says baby
well I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes
says the rain’s gonna wash away I believe it
–3:00 AM, Matchbox 20
Two o’clock when I lay down,three o’clock when I rise
I can’t get no sleep with all these tears in my eyes
I walk around, baby, and I don’t talk too much
How am I supposed to operate with my heart on a crutch?
It ain’t easy when your lover leave you all alone
–Front Porch Blues, Tom Lloyd
It's three o'clock in the morning,
We've danced the whole night thru,
And daylight soon will be dawning,
Just one more waltz with you,
–Three O’Clock in the Morning, Dorothy Merriss
My life seems unreal,
My crime an illusion,
A scene badly written
In which I must play.
Yet I know as I gaze
At my young love beside me,
The morning is just a few hours away.
Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, Simon & Garfunkel
But it never seems to work that way
It seems there's always so much more to say
And it's always somewhere in between
True or not it's a four o'clock stop
–Four O’Clock Stop, Lowest of the Low
4 O’Clock in the morning
When the ambulance arrived
4 O’Clock in the morning
When the ambulance arrived
The blue lights were flashing
As they lay my baby down inside
–Four O’Clock in the Morning, the Pogues
Four in the morning and I’ve got that feeling
Clock’s ticking but my heart’s not beating
Eyes open and I’m staring at the ceiling
Tell me that you’re leaving; give me something to believe in
–Four in the Morning, Ivy Music
It's four in the morning
And once more the dawning
Just woke up the wanting in me
Wishing I'd never met her
Knowing if I'd forget her
How much better off she would be.
–Four in the Morning, Faron Young
Four in the morning, crapped out, yawning, longing my life away
I never worry, why should I, it’s all gonna fade
Now I sit by my window and I watch the cars
I fear I’ll do some damage one fine day
But I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers
Still crazy after all these years
–Still Crazy After All These Years, Simon & Garfunkel