7 songs: Parenthetically Speaking
Dan did this great post a while back, so I thought I’d do my own.
1. “Einstein on a Beach (for an Eggman),” Counting Crows
I don’t really understand this song, except that it’s darn catchy and its title doesn’t really make any sense at all to me. It comes from that heyday when everyone liked the Counting Crows and you could count on hearing them on any alt radio station and most pop stations. When we encounter the line suggesting that everything Einstein believes is shattered, you know you’re in a strange place. And who the heck is Eggman? Wikipedia tells me the title was inspired by a Philip Glass opera, as if that clears things up.
2. “Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man),” Randy Newman
The best of the non-Disney Randy Newman songs, I’d say. Without the parenthetical, the song seems to be about the president, but the song clearly needs the second part. I wonder why he used the parenthetical at all. It’s as if the plea to the President becomes a description of him itself. Wikipedia tells me the plea comes from a fictional character whom the album purports to represent, concept album style. Reminds me a bit of Stranger with a Camera
3. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” Green Day
A song that people like to play at the end of High School, Green Day’s surprisingly touching song doesn’t fit with much of the rest of their early music. A friend told me that the primary title was directly a message to the fans who turned on Green Day after their astounding commercial success pulled them out of the indie punk scene. Wikipedia tells me the band thought it was the “most punk thing they could do” after hitting the big time as pop/punk artists.
4. “Just Stopped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” Kenny Rogers and the First Edition
I’ve loved this song since the moment I first heard it, which is, not surprisingly, when I saw The Big Lebowski. This is the song that drove me to the record store to get the soundtrack, and a song that maintains a regular place on my playlists. I love the idea that the primary title doesn’t convey at all the song’s trippy nature, while the parenthetical suggests a circular logic one could only imagine as part of a drug-fuelled 1970s afternoon. Wikipedia tells me the song was written as a warning against the dangers of LSD.
5. “Superman (It’s Not Easy)”, Five for Fighting
This is one of those songs that accelerated to ridiculous overplay status in about two weeks, and consequently became obnoxious. But I’ve always loved it for the lament it puts at the heart of the lonely existence that Superman would really feel. I think of this song in conjunction with “Kryptonite,” the Three Doors Down song about a madman who thinks he’s Superman, and with Jeph Loeb’s A Superman for All Seasons, one of the more interesting contemplations of the Man of Steel that I’ve read in comics. Wikipedia tells me it gained a lot of traction after the September 11th attacks, though the site doesn’t explain why. I wonder if it’s because the song could, in that context, refer to the firefighters and other emergency-response personnel who put themselves at grave risk during that tragedy.
6. “The Drinking Song (Goodnight Irene),” Moxy Fruvous
MF remain my favorite harmonious Canadian humorous pop act, and this remains my favorite song. Rather than celebrating the drinking life, as it seems most drinking songs do, Fruvous’ drinking song laments the drinking life, comparing the ravaging of the alcoholic’s body with a war, sinking into the malaise of the drinker. And then, layered over the top, is the classic Celtic ballad “Goodnight Irene.” Wikipedia doesn’t have much to say about this one.
7. “The Ballad of Davy Crockett (In Outer Space),” They Might Be Giants
Do I really need to say much about this? Except that it would be an amazing movie.