Randy Newman: 12 Songs (Reprise, 1970);composed by Randy Newman
If Randy Newman’s second and greatest album had a theme, it was not so much alienation as anomie: the breakdown of social bonds between individual and community. 12 Songs posed an unsettling corollary: What if anomie was something you liked? Accordingly, the narrators of these songs are mostly creepy guys at the end of their tethers. “Suzanne” comprises an obscene phone call, for example. In “Lucinda,” a young woman is lying on a beach in her graduation gown at sunset. The narrator lies down beside her, for reasons unstated. Since she never speaks, he only gradually realizes that she is really just there to wait for the beach cleaning truck to come along and scoop her body up with the day’s trash. And it does. After he fails to avert this, the narrator’s dumbstruck explanation is that “She just wouldn’t go no farther.” This recalls my pet theory about why The Night of the Hunter is a truly scary film: because Charles Laughton probably empathized most with the Robert Mitchum character. “Lucinda” reminds me of the town drunk incapacitated by his discovery of Shelley Winters’ bound corpse in the river - an utterly appalling image with few rivals in American cinema.
Note: 25 secular essays (each one exactly 200 words long) about 25 songs, intended to appear one per day during Advent from Dec. 1 through Dec. 25. Or so.
David Allan Coe: Penitentiary Blues (Plantation 1969)
The Coup: Sorry To Bother You (Anti- 2012)
Merle Haggard: If I Could Only Fly (Anti- 2000)
Keith Jarrett: Radiance (ECM 2005)
Lee Konitz Meets Jimmy Giuffre (Verve 1959)
György Kurtág: Eight Piano Pieces
Paul Motian Trio: Lost in a Dream (ECM 2010)
Frank Ocean: nostalgia, ULTRA. (Odd Futures download 2011)
of Montreal: False Priest (Polyvinyl 2010)
Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform 2012)
Luis Buñuel: “Now, like most deaf people, I don’t much like the blind.”
Philip Guston: "Art is the frustration of the desire not to make art."
Sharon Stone: "You can't sleep your way to the top. You can only sleep your way to the middle."
Spike Jones, Jr.: “One of the things that people don’t realize about Dad’s kind of music is, when you replace a C-sharp with a gunshot, it has to be a C-sharp gunshot or it sounds awful.” (as quoted by Thomas Pynchon)
Walter Benjamin: "And today the book is already, as the present mode of scholarly production demonstrates, an outdated mediation between two different filing systems." From "One Way Street," Reflections (Demetz, tr.; Schocken, 1978), p. 78.