Monday, January 30, 2006

Don Quixote or Donkey Kong

Wherein I effuse enthusiastically

Great pop songs are rare. By great, I mean the ones that get stuck in your head and you don't mind. It's not change the world for the better music, just pleasant music that makes you smile. Rarer still to find an entire album full of great pop songs.

John Wesley Harding has trod the earth for about 16 years singing his unique mix of folk and gangsta folk, occasionally plugging in and rocking out just a wee bit. But always with style and wit and the sharpest deprecating humor. He's a wonderful story-teller and I'd pay just to hear him talk. Picking up a guitar and actually singing is a bonus.

If I had to pick a favorite album, it would probably be Awake. A bit dark and fatalistic, it's full of vivid images and scenes. One of my favorite concert moments was Mr. Harding standing alone onstage playing Sweat Tears Blood And Come. The band slowly joined him as they segued into Prince's Come and finished up with a raucous encore of AC/DC. Another song on the album, Miss Fortune became the inspiration for his first novel, MisFortune published last year under his real name, Wesley Stace. Lyrics:
I was born with a coat hanger in my mouth
Oh yeah, and I was dumped down south
I was found by the richest man in the world
Oh yeah, who bought me up as a girl
My sheets are satin but my mind's a mess
But there are worse things I confess
Than drinking tea in a pretty dress
and I'm here to tell you that it's not all bad
Count your blessings and maybe you'll be glad

But if I were to recommend one album to someone unfamiliar with his work, it would have to be Confessions of St. Ace. ( Read more here on the mythology of St. Ace) Where to start? There's the hilarious Goth Girl:
Goth girl
What are you wearing today
Black again
Goth girl
It's such a fine day in May
But you think it's raining
One day I'm gonna kiss the lipstick off your mouth

The spooky Bad Dream Baby sung with the spooky Jimmy Dale Gilmore. The ultimate, lonely driving song, Our Lday of the Highways:
Sometimes the weather's worst
When you have some place to be
Like the time we drove to Boston
In the snow from New York City
Frozen to the bone
And we saw the planes fly high above
On metal wings and prayers
And tried to find some radio
Hoping one day we would be there

...But what makes the album, is the brilliant pop perfection of the first four songs. They are bouncy, and catchy, and the lyrics are literate.

She's a Piece of Work:
She's up and down, she's round the wheel
She's governed absolutely by the way she feels
That's a lethal combination in a small house when it rains

I'm Wrong About Everything
The colours fade to grey
And I'm left with black and white
Don't know why I try
To fight with what is right

People Love to Watch You Die (there's a lot of anger in this song, I'd love to know the story behind it. Harding as the chronicler of St. Ace, does offer a number of suggestions):
People love to watch you die
It gets them sexually
And then they smoke a cigarette
And make a cup of tea

And the song that starts it off, with the bouncy, insistent piano, Humble Bee
Once upon a time
I could have had it all
A princess with a price on her head
Or the prince who'd climb her wall
But when pride has it in for someone
None of us can check the fall
Now I'm humble as a bumblebee
I'm getting used to how things have to be
Just another mumble
Buzzing round and round in rings
So afraid that I won't be king

This is the sting, I still want everything
Here is the twist, you're on my list and
Here's what I mean, you're still the queen
And I want you

Now I wonder
If I will ever be
The lighthouse in a sea of shadows
That you were when you shined for me
When I was going under
You knew when and where to be
Now I'm as good as Ebenezer after his conversion
I'd give all my goods away with no coercion
I'd give almost anything
Just to hear the hum of your wings

This is the sting, I still want everything
Here is the twist, you're on my list and
Here's what I mean, you're still the queen
And I want you, honey, I want you

I was as 'umble as Uriah
Just before his tumble
But I fumbled for the best of me
Amongst the jumble
Heaven knows where we went wrong
Don Quixote or Donkey Kong

This is the sting, I still want everything
Here is the twist, you're on my list
Here's what I mean, you're still the queen
And I want you, honey, I want you
I want you


Anonymous BTD Greg said...

I saw JWH a couple of times in concert, a long time ago--probably fifteen years ago. He was great. I haven't really followed his career since, but he sure could entertain a crowd, even all by himself.

1/30/2006 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Yep, one of the most natural performers I've seen.

1/31/2006 07:40:00 AM  

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