A Musical Apology

I have come to admit that I’ve liked some pretty awful music in my day. Not ironically, mind you. I was young, and musically sheltered, so when I was introduced to some true tonal atrocities, I loved them. The first song I remember liking was Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.” Now, that ’50s-throwback nostalgia tune isn’t that bad, despite the grating “la la la la LAAAAA” chorus. My family tells me that before that one, I couldn’t get enough of Sir Elton’s “Benny and the Jets,” a song I can’t bear to hear on the radio anymore. “BENNAAAY!!!” For the love of all things sacred, I apologize to my family for making them play that song in my presence, even if I was five years old at the time. When Benny gets killed in TOTAL RECALL, my secret joy is pretending he is the person Elton was singing about.

But Elton’s not that bad. My musical education began with The Beatles’ white album, and I didn’t even hear “Penny Lane” or “I Saw Her Standing There” until my early teens. I still love the white album best, out of nostalgia, from the sappy “I Will” to the genius of “Bungalow Bill” running into “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” and the songs that Charles Manson used to tell his LSD psycho slaves that the Beatles were instructing them to kill. I remember listening to “Helter Skelter” and one of my dramatic high school friends telling me that the song made you kill people. He’s forgiven because that was high school, and he introduced me to a lot of great music- from Isao Tomita, to E.L.O., the the entire Beatles catalog, which wasn’t ubiquitous in the days before iTunes. My sister and I would listen to the goofy sound collage of “Revolution no.9” that would inspire some of my favorite bands like Emergency Broadcast Network and Negativland.

But the Beatles didn’t make really bad songs even when they tried, except maybe for “Honey Pie.” For the real confession, we’ll have to go to Theresa Brewer, a ’50s-era novelty singer who sang, “Put a-nother nickel in, in the nickolodeon, all I want is loving you and MUSIC! MUSIC! MUSIC!” I think I had musical Asperger’s over that song. I played it over and over, ruining the grooves on my uncle’s 45 of it. He ran a bar in Brooklyn, and bequeathed all the singles from the jukebox unto us. Everything from Big Joe Turner’s “Flip, Flop and Fly,” to Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” plus awful novelties like Teresa Brewer, “The Old Philosopher”- Don’t Give Up… That Ship! and the stylings of the 1910 Fruitgum Company, who tried to make a hit out of “Simon Says.”

Perhaps the most awful song that I persist in defending is Gene McDaniels’ Christian lounge song, “100 Pounds of Clay.” This was on the jukebox at Mickey’s Dining Car in St. Paul, my late night hangout with Deneen the Mean Demorama Queen, music reviewer extraordinaire, and I’d play it every night we ended up there for a cheeseburger and a bowl of Mulligan stew, or fried eggs and Potatoes O’Brien. In it, Mr. McDaniels gives us a groovin’ recap of Eve’s creation in Genesis, reminding women that they’re just a pile of dirt God made for men to appreciate. Isn’t that romantic?

He took a hundred pounds of clay
And he said, “Hey Listen,”
“I made this-a world today,
And a I know what’s missin'”

Then He rolled his big sleeves up
And a brand-new world began
He created a woman and-a lots of lovin’ for a man
Whoa-oh-oh, yes he did

With just a hundred pounds of clay
He made my life worth livin’
And I will thank Him every day
For every kiss you’re givin’
And I’ll thank Him every night
For the arms that are holdin’ me tight
And He did it all with just a hundred pounds of clay
Yes he did, whoa-oh, yes He did

Now can’tcha just see Him a-walkin’ ’round and ’round
Pickin’ the clay uppa off the ground?
Doin’ just what He should do
To make a livin’ dream like you

He rolled His big sleeves up
And a brand-new world began
He created a woman and-a lots of lovin’ for a man
Whoa-oh-oh, yes he did
With just a hundred pounds of clay

© 2010 Tommy Salami

One thought on “A Musical Apology

  1. Man, I haven't been to Mickey's in years, despite it being only five minutes away with easy parking. Might have to rectify that for lunch today.Damn. Now I'm all hungry.Also, I'm not seeing a whole lot to be that ashamed of. At least you didn't go through a shameful Billy Joel phase in junior high.

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