Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'Cause I'm a Creep, Dept.

As everyone knows, the '60s were a time of tremendous evil. Many irritating tropes of our times were conceived under casual sedation in over-aircon'd rooms while simulated stereo recordings droned in the background. Astonishingly malignant mindsets were more than tolerated; yes, they were even embraced. One such has been recently displayed on the stylish TV smash Mad Men as if it were a medieval gynaecological device: the sophisticated, pervasive misogyny of the time.

Difficult as it may be to believe in these enlightened times, when women can freely climax without fear of confinement in grimy mental institutions, at one point, in the confluence of Cold War paranoia, Eisenhower-era conformism, unregulated chemical derangement and the flop sweat stink of White Male Fear, misogyny of the most corrosive sort was celebrated in the popular culture, and didactic materials were devised and disseminated to instruct women, those fragile vessels, in how not to tipple-topple the status quo with untoward behavior or attitudes.

One prominent example comes to us from the pens of '60s pop music boffins Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who, in the song "Wives and Lovers," reveal an attitude toward women not unlike that which one might adopt in dealing with froward children at mealtime, as Hal David essentially tells young brides that, if they don't eat all their vegetables, the boogieman is going to jump out of the closet and bumboozle them.

"Wives and Lovers," in Jack Jones' Top 20 version, is a lightly swinging ditty perfect for scoring those martini-pitcher evenings. One can tune out the words and enjoy it as a classic pop confection. So, what makes this song a leading candidate for creepiest song of a decade filled with them (don't get me started on "Somethin' Stupid") is the rub between the song's light'n'easy arrangement and the chilling message of its words. Had the lyrics been set to a section of Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire" or even the Sabs' "Iron Man," the fit would've been more congruent. Instead, you get a frothy "Bluesette"-sounding Marlo Thomas theme song with an undertone of rusty Gillette blades in the medicine cabinet ready for long cuts down-not-across in a warm Tuinal bath.

Basically, the message is: listen, sweetheart, your housewifely duties don't stop at rearing the 2.5, cleaning the house and fixing his grub--so, get yourself in pearls and heels as he gets off the 5:30 from Grand Central and pour him a drink while premoistening your business for his pleasure. Otherwise, he's going to plow his blonde, fit and ready secretary through a hotel headboard, and it'll be All Your Fault.

So, yes, Creepiest Song of the '60s. Thank you, Hal David, I can only imagine your home life at the time.

Wives and Lovers

(Burt Bacharach & Hal David)

Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don't think because there's a ring on your finger
You needn't try anymore

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I'm warning you...

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don't send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
He's almost here...

Hey! Little girl
Better wear something pretty
Something you'd wear to go to the city and
Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music
Time to get ready for love
Time to get ready
Time to get ready for love

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tengo Todo Papi, Dept.

Someone referred to Dominicaneoyorquina Maluca as a "Dominican M.I.A." I'll go that one better and call her "M.I.A. meets Lily Allen for a double-caf mocha loca in the Heights." Not what you'd call a long discography, but "El Tigeraso" is a catchy numbah. Enjoy.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Selling the Sizzle, Dept.

Great album, the two-disc UK pressing particularly. The U.S. single-disc version has the cover pic of *sigh* Patsy Kensit in a slit skirt on a scooter. A preternaturally cute woman at that point.

I digress.

Or do I? Because, on the topic of pulchritude marketed: American Apparel ads.

Just for background, AA is the largest clothes manufacturer in the United States, says the Wik. And their ad campaigns have been featured in prominent publications dedicated to the featuring of ad campaigns. Periodicals that could be called, say, Faboo Ads Quarterly or OMG, That Ad!!. If those don't exist, take them, a lagniappe for your custom. At any rate, their ads.

American Apparel, or "AA" for the remainder of this exercise, runs gynocentric ads whose design conceit, to drag in Sir Philip Sidney, seems to be "Girls AA President Dov Charney Would Like to Fuck." Which might account for the string of sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him. Basically, multiethnic size 2s in their early twenties arranged langourous and en déshabillé against a plain background. Attractive in a studied unstudied way. Like, "Yes, I'm that Latina-Asian girl with the smile you saw on the subway this morning. But in a lace body stocking." The ads position them as attractive, but not forbiddingly so. Eye-catching but not "cute." Regular girls who happen to be wearing a tank thong while arching their back on a bare mattress. The models like to arch their backs. And spread their legs. Occasionally at the same time. Here, in Choc City, AA likes to take the full back page of the local free weekly for its ads. As a result, one walks into work after lunch on Thursdays carrying a periodical that looks like Barely Legal Lingerie. Very impressive on that crowded elevator ride.

The ads sell women's clothing but appear to be aimed at men (for whom AA also makes clothing, but, for some reason, never features arching their back and spreading their legs). I don't know if the thinking at AA is that guys are going to be all, "Hey, baby, why don't you get this Double Diamond and Crescent Pattern Fishnet, because the model with the dancer's body who's wearing it in the ad I myself would like to bone till the cows come home?" How often that turns out well, your sobsister cannot say. Not very, I would think. Often, that is.

At any rate, American Apparel. You can't argue with success. Or, rather, you could, except that you're temporarily distracted by the Search for the Best Bottom in the World competition AA is currently running, and then you lose your train of thought.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Toujours Gai, Dept.

Right, so I'm watching the first half-hour of the film Bobby Short at the Cafe Carlyle, the audience shots of which alone are worth the price of admission as an overview of a certain slice of NYC life in the Bad Old Good Old Days, i.e., 1979. And he's being Bobby Short, which, if you're Dianne Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters is intolerable, but, for the rest of us, is one paradigm of saloon singing, as he calls it. At any rate, the performance is interspersed with interview segments wherein he talks about his life and career. At one point, he talks about growing up listening to broadcasts from the Cotton Club in New York and learning the songs from each edition, that is, each year's revue, of the Cotton Club. He describes then going to New York in 1937 and meeting Duke Ellington, who was preparing the score for that year's Cotton Club show. Short describes the songs, particularly one number, "She's Tall, She's Tan, She's Terrific," as being "almost American folklore."

The scene returns to the Carlyle, where he launches into "She's Tall..." (which, in fact, was written by John Coots and Benny Davis and performed by Cab Calloway and His Cotton Club Orchestra in '37 and available here) as part of a medley that continues with a short bit of "Posin'" by Chaplin and Kahn, then a laidback version of "Truckin'," a Koehler and Bloom ditty recorded by Fats Waller in 1935, followed by "Breakfast in Harlem," most often associated with the team of Buck and Bubbles, and a bit of 1933's "Old Man Harlem" by Rudy Vallee and Hoagy Carmichael and then back for the big finish with a reprise of "Truckin'." In short, a fabulous medley of songs associated with Harlem, the Cotton Club, '30s dance culture and his own first exposure to the city.

What prompted this entry are the lyrics to "Posin'," which, in Short's performance, on paper and in Jimmie Lunceford's recording, remind your sobsister of nothing so much as Madonna's "Vogue." Here are the lyrics to the first two verses and chorus, transcribed from the Lunceford recording:

Oh, posin'!

Dee-dee, fall-e-oh!
There's a dance you ought to do,
Let me introduce to you,
Everybody pose!

Get a partner, then begin,
Hold whatever pose you're in,
Everybody pose!

It's a dance that you can dance with your girl or wife;
Find a pose, then stop; position's everything in life!
You'll find there's no telling when
Dance will stop and start again,
Everybody pose!

Me, I'm drawing a bright line between this number, inspired by Harlem during its '30s renaissance (at which time underground drag balls gave birth to the dramatic dance style known as "presentation" or "performance") and that *dear god* 20-year-old song, voguing itself the lineal descendant of presentation developed at house balls featuring competition between the "children" of the great style houses of New York. The history of house balls and culture is too big a topic for a blog post (although here's an informative article on the topic), but I enjoy drawing these lines, and so I have done.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ruining his Pants Crease, Dept.

Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" is a Great Rock Song. Perfect for any occasion. Driving down the highway. Singing along in a bar. Underscoring a lap dance. This last I can only speak of theoretically, as I've only seen them performed on television. Most recently at the National Prayer Breakfast, when Michele Bachmann thigh-fucked Satan to the tune of NIN's "Closer." It was a moving experience for all concerned. In my case, my breakfast relocated itself from my stomach to my lap.

So, yes, Joe Walsh, "Rocky Mountain Way." Listen to it here, then buy it at your favorite Geschlechtsverkehrbotschaft or neighborhood Fernsehgemeinschaft.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

sarah's hands

Grandma's Hands, Dept.

Sarah's hands
Gave her hints on her positions
Sarah's hands
Took a hundred large away
Sarah's hands
Spell out words she should be saying,
She say, "Raisin' taxes ain't for me,
I'm all for Big Energy,
Who said free speech should be free?"
Sarah's hands

Sarah's hands
Used to field-dress baby's dinner
Sarah's hands
Now just play in the couture
Sarah's hands
Are more eloquent than she is, she says,
"Trippy, Grandma sympathize
Baby momma's got loose thighs,
Scream to God and clench her eyes"
Sarah's hands

Sarah's hands
Twitch and fret on FOX's cameras
Sarah's hands
Tell the nation she's no brain
Sarah's hands
Won't touch presidential Bible
She'll say, "Sure, I like to speak in tongues,
Whore for oil and carry guns,
Betcha Jesus loves my sons"
Lord, we hope she never, ever runs.

If God's in Heaven, we won't be in
Sarah's hands

With profound apologies to the great Bill Withers