Category archives: Bewildered Songs
You hipster musos might like to pretend that the first record you bought, with your own precious pocket money, was Music for the Masses. Or Purple Rain. Or Rain Dogs. But it wasn’t. Like me, the first record you bought (with your own precious pocket money) was the 7″ single of Nikita by Elton John. I know. I can see the shame reflected in your eyes.
I had, I now realise, something of a cold war fetish as a young fella. In this, I’m sure I was not alone. It wasn’t so much the spies and the intrigue and the defections that made me giddy. It was more the (supposedly) imminent threat of global annihilation. On the one hand it was (of course) a bit on the terrifying side. Melted faces and irradiated eyeballs and your family being dead and so on. People shuffling about wailing and dragging their skin behind them like hideous mutant freaks. All that was, I suppose, in the debit column.
On the other (mutated) hand, it was hard not to acknowledge that the world was hopelessly shit as it stood. Dropping the bombs and blowing everything to bits afforded us the chance to a) rebuild the world anew as a (clean and bland) Star Trek-y futuristic utopia, while, b) living out our childhoods like the resourceful, independent, and semi-feral young heroes of an Enid Blython-esque post-apocalyptic fantasy. Sadly, of course, the wall came down and the Hard Rock Cafe invaded Moscow and the world continued to build shittier layers upon shitty foundations. Boo.
But the pop-cultural flotsam and jetsam of the time retain their power to move and amuse. Step forward Elton & Bernie (Taupin).
We’ll leave the whole “Dude! Nikita is a MAN’S name!!” discussion to the sophisticated troll armies of YouTube. All I’ll say, in hindsight, is that Nikita (the video) marries the glamour of a Soviet passport control checkpoint with the endearing lovableness of a relentless stalker (telephoto lenses and secret slide shows in his apartment) in a way that seems, in a world stubbornly resisting nuclear wipe-out, delightfully cuddly and fuzzy.
As part of an ongoing project to make my 14-month-old daughter as gargantuan a nerd as her daddy, I recently decorated half her room with a charming Space Invaders motif. It rocks. And she loves it (or appears to). In your face, Peppa fucking Pig!
Anyway, said decorating job put me (unsurprisingly) in a Space Invaders-y mood. So off to the internets I went in search of weird ‘n’ wonderful delights. I’m glad I did. Because I found this.
Like most classic arcade games, Space Invaders was not overly forthcoming with back-story or context. It gave you a ship. It showed you where to point it. And it implored you to shoot the living shit out of everything. Till you were dead.
What breakdown in galactic diplomacy had led to the invasion? We never knew. Nor did we care. We didn’t even know much about our enemies’ true faces – save for some crude (probably propagandic) cabinet art designed to make ‘em look as monstrous as possible.
Into this breach of relative ignorance swooped (Australia’s?) Player One – a band nobly determined to show young men & women just who it was they were fighting. I think…
Far from being lumbering, thuggish and fur-covered monsters, the invaders were (it would seem) intelligences of the cool, detached, and “standing around in a dark cavernous space wearing flowing cowls” variety. They may have looked freaky (blank mannequin faces and glowing LED eyes) but they seemed (otherwise) fairly harmless. Their favoured (only?) activity appeared to involve turning slowly toward camera. Hardly an intergalactic war crime.
The trouble with being a cool, detached, stand-y & stare-y type alien (of course) is that you leave yourself wide open to being strolled up to and shot at point-blank range (as happens above at 1:35). Brains are grand and all that. But being able to run away, or roll behind a barrel, is undeniably handy.
I’m assuming (though Player One’s fragmented narrative never makes this entirely clear) that the assassins were part of some Earth-originating infiltration force. If so, then, y’know, this flies like totally in the face of established Space Invaders continuity. How did we get the lads aboard? Where did we get shuttle craft or transporter capabilities from? I mean, there was only one bloody giant tank defending the whole damn planet as far as I recall.
It’s a conceptual nightmare. The campaign for a Director’s Cut to address these (scoff!) glaring deficiencies starts here.
So there we were tonight watching (like the cool cats we are) the extras on the Dirty Dancing 20th Anniversary Special Edition DVD (I know, I know…) when on comes the video for “Hungry Eyes”. Three minutes and forty-five seconds later we’re picking our slack jaws off the floor and frantically scrubbing our brains with industrial-strength Brillo pads (in vain attempts to remove the stain).
Question: What the fuck had we just experienced?
Answer: A freakish hell-ride through the deranged mind of a psychotic fantasist named Eric Carmen.
Just watch. Just watch.
As he sits in his grimly stylish industrial apartment, watching snuff-core porn flicks like a lunatic 80s yuppie version of Mark Lewis (from Peeping Tom), Eric dreams of a lovely lady who he’ll stare (madly) at with his “hungry eyes”. Did I say hungry eyes? I clearly meant rapey eyes. He’s got rapey eyes. Just look at him. And listen to him.
I’ve been meaning to tell you,
I’ve got this feelin’ that won’t subside.
Yes, Eric. This feeling is called “murderous blood lust”. I wouldn’t tell anyone. I’d keep it to yourself.
Now I’ve got you in my sights.
Note – “sights”. As in “the sights of my Mauser 86 SR sniper rifle”.
It gets worse…
With these – hungry eyes,
now I can take you by surprise.
I mean, come on! Take? By surprise (in a darkened alley)? Brett Easton Fecking Eliis would struggle to come up with a sustained rape fantasy this grotesque.
1:44 on is my “favourite” bit. Eric louchely leans against a nightclub (or whatever) door as fantasy lady outrageously whips her come-hither (and rape me) hair about in the sexy rain. In reality, she was probably just waiting for a bus, dressed normally. On her way home from work. Eric’s bulging and “hungry” eyes see what they want to see…and force us to see it too. It’s fucking terrifying.
Oh and then there’s the bit where she becomes 100 feet tall and wails out a sax solo. And the bit where she makes out with Stan Lee before becoming Asian.
I need to lie down…
A twiddled knob? A pair of headphones loosely clasped to a pair of ears? A graphic equalizer being slyly manipulated by a finger? Standing around in a cardigan? The classic hallmarks of no-budget, guerrilla music-video-making.
Big Tom (one of Ireland’s pioneering guerrilla music-video-makers) is a master of the form. He makes it look easy. He makes it look amateurish. He makes it look as lovingly home-made as a lovely slice of sponge cake. He knows that long, lingering shots of dials and computer monitors will give his followers a vicarious technological thrill. If Star Trek (original series) is your only Sci-Fi reference, then knobs & dials are the stuff of an impossibly exotic future.
The song itself is Memento Mori-tastic. A Country ‘n’ Irish mélange of fetishised Americana (“Coup de Ville”, “Kinfolk”, “Skid Row”) and the grim inevitably and inescapablity of death. All delivered by one of the saddest faces in popular music…
Jesus. Poor old Big Tom. His craggy head looks like it was moulded from week-old soda bread dipped in infinite sorrow. His final downward glance, as we fade to black, is something that will haunt me for years. We’re all going to die. And Big Tom knows it. Knows it better than any man (just about) alive.
Writing about music close to one’s heart can be be tricky. The challenge of trying to capture – through clumsy, clunky prose – its ethereal and deeply personal pleasures is a challenge this blog has rarely taken on.
It’s far easier (not to mention more entertaining) to write on the subject of the musically mad, bad, demented and (even) disturbing. With that thought firmly in mind, another new fustar.info series begins (I’m getting addicted to starting these bloody things).
For the first item on the menu we skip the savoury starters and go straight for the sickeningly sweet deserts. This mawkish dirge was suggested as suitable material for the blog by (adopts Daniel O’Donnell-esque drawl) “a special wee lady who’s a big part of me life”.
I give you, “Pal of my Cradle Days” – a perfect example of that evergreen musical form (beloved of Ireland’s Own readers), the “Me & Me Mammy” balllad.
You know the score – she raised me; clothed me; bathed me; sat knitting in her rocking chair by the window waiting for me to come back from the war (while worrying about me buying a motorbike). That kind of thing.
Pal of my cradle days, I’ve needed you always.
Since I was a baby upon your knee,
You sacrificed everything for me.
Here’s the mighty Pip Collins giving it a go in Blackpool, circa 1980:
Pip tells it like it is and was. How does the ungrateful son repay the ceaseless maternal devotion? He stays out all night – most likely boozing and hooring – causing the loving mother to wither and shrivel up with the worry.
Greatest friend, dearest pal,
It was me who caused you
Every sorrow and heartache you knew,
Your face so fair I have wrinkled with care
I placed every line that is there.
Though the audience remains unseen off-screen, it’s not too difficult to guess at its composition: white-haired old dears dabbing tear-stained eyes while gazing at faded Polaroids of errant and estranged sons. And, perhaps, the odd errant and estranged son himself – sobbing quietly at the painful memory of that lost pal of his own cradle days (and the gold he cruelly whipped from her hair).
Lurking not too far behind all this maudlin sentimentality, however, there’s an undeniable, skin-crawling creepiness. The most famous articulator of the sentiment, “A boy’s best friend is his mother”, was, after all, not Daniel O’Donnell…but Norman Bates. Having said that, I’m sure that themes of matricide and repressed Oedipal yearning aren’t entirely absent from Daniel’s live shows. That’s probably part of the appeal.
Particularly if he includes (as I’m sure he must) that other “I REALLY love my mammy” classic, “A Mother’s Love’s a Blessing” in his set. Here be the chorus:
A mother’s love is a blessing,
No matter where you roam.
Keep her while she’s living,
You’ll miss her when she’s gone.
Love her as in childhood,
When feeble, old and grey,
For you’ll never miss a mother’s love
’til she’s buried beneath the clay.
And here a lovely scratchy and warbly recording from de ould days:
In case you haven’t guessed, the “special wee lady” who suggested I blog about the above was none other than my own darling mother. An extra pinch of icky weirdness has, I’m sure you’ll agree, been added to the mix.
She’s a sick twist all right.