Idle Thoughts on Popular Songs: Slumming It

An overlooked part of the “quality, not quantity” proposition is that a healthy society is a social pyramid. If you drive K-selection too hard in the aggregate, you become a top-heavy people. If you eradicate your own proletarian, quasi-criminal class, then you create a vacuum that aliens are more than happy to fill — and when you give away your streets, you give away your future.

And you lose the fount of your own life-force and creativity when you snuff out or outsource chaos. Here are some songs with different perspectives about the other half:

Kris Kristofferson — Sunday Morning Coming Down. The song is about a drunk experiencing a moment of clarity when he sees normal people doing normal things. Today, the song represent a moment of clarity for all of us, with its scenes of once having had a country of our own. The linked version, a duet with Johnny Cash, is the song’s best performance.

George Jones — Who’s Gonna Fill their Shoes. A vignette that captures an aristocrat and a worker sharing a common bond. Respect and pride, noblesse oblige and appreciation. How a member of the elite should relate to one of his people.

Drive-By Truckers — Outfit. This is the greatest American song of the century so far. A Southern-style list of do’s and don’t for a young man from someone who learned things the hard way.

Pulp — Common People. One of the best songs from the 1990s.

She told me that her dad was loaded
I said in that case I’ll have a rum and Coca-Cola.

 

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32 thoughts on “Idle Thoughts on Popular Songs: Slumming It

  1. Outstanding choices! Catch Isbell’s rendition of “Outfit” on the “Live from Alabama” album if you have not already. He does a pretty good “Like a Hurricane” on that album as well.

  2. I checked it out on YouTube. It is quite good. A bit slower in tempo and clearer-voiced than the recorded version. Another great “slumming” song by Isbell is Travelling Alone.

  3. Pingback: Idle Thoughts on Popular Songs: Slumming It. | Reaction Times

  4. On a totally unrelated note, PA and goys, I wanted to run this situation by you.

    I’ve been approached several times recently at my club by a wealthy young Egyptian man (Sunni) who , I think, judging by his comments and topics of conversation, is connected (or wishes to be connected) to ISIS. These are private conversations by the pool. I speak a bit of Arabic, have spent a lot of time around Muslims (known them intimately), and know the right words to mouth about Israel, Jews, and US foreign policy, so I have gained his trust.

    He’s a short, awkward, bald chap (a classic beta-boy, or total gamma or delta in Vox Day parlance) who’s going through a divorce with a Persian woman mother-of-two who recently miscarried his child. He’s been married twice, no kids. Sketchy employment background. Lives in a spare room at a neighbor’s house. He’s extremely bitter about American society. Turns out he’s a fervent Erdogan supporter. Now he’s talking about moving to Dallas area to hook up with a radical imam in (I think) Irving.

    I just wanted to put this here in case something happens.

  5. “He’s extremely bitter about American society.”

    And yet he stays, he stays. Why do they all stay? Well at least clock-boy left.

  6. PA, here’s a rock tidbit for ya:good friend of mine; a pop critic in the rustbelt but now in the Southwest, inspired the title of Drive-by Truckers’ album, “Pizza Deliverance.”

  7. “Who’s Going To Fill Their Shoes” is more accurately about a man wanting to proudly pass the torch to the next generation, looks around, and sees that there’s no one worthy of receiving it.

  8. Yeah, the George Jones Talking Cell Phone Blues! Never gets old.
    From the same album, Mama Bake a Pie is a powerful anti-war song. The two Bushes and the current prez will be forced to listen to it all day long in hell as they meditate on their sins.

  9. — I just wanted to put this here in case something happens.

    Not a bad time to practice Machiavellian skills – CYA, record things he says, decide if and how to notify appropriate parties should you suspect something, etc.

    — good friend of mine; a pop critic in the rustbelt but now in the Southwest, inspired the title of Drive-by Truckers’ album, “Pizza Deliverance.”

    Tell more, if you are comfortable that you’re not revealing too much about your background.

    — “Who’s Going To Fill Their Shoes” is more accurately about a man wanting to proudly pass the torch to the next generation, looks around, and sees that there’s no one worthy of receiving it.

    True, as far as the song lyrics go. In the post, I talked about the action in the music video. But to your point, a lot of contemporary Country artists performed at Jones’s tribute concert when he died a few years ago. I know very little about Country music, but none looked like they came from a rough background. The fact that there has been so little of good Country recorded compared to decades ago supports the point I make at the beginning of the post.

    — Mama Bake a Pie is a powerful anti-war song. The two Bushes and the current prez will be forced to listen to it all day long in hell as they meditate on their sins.

    I haven’t heard of that song. Didn’t find a George Jones version on Youtube but there are other versions, probably Vietnam-era. And as it turns out, Drive-By Truckers also cover it. Yes, those fuckers will burn in hell.

  10. I’ll have listen to Kris Kristofferson. Most musician are kind of weird and effete, but he is handsome and masculine.

  11. Kristofferson is an interesting figure. His father was a colonel (?) in the Swedish army, and Kris then piloted helicopters in the US Army. He defied his family’s wishes in leaving the military rather than making a career there. He took a job as janitor at the recording studio, trying to get his songs recorded. I don’t recall the details, but he finally rented a helicopter and landed it on Johnny Cash’s mansion lawn and showed him a song he wrote. Cash liked it and arranged to have the song recorded. That song was “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”

    He also wrote a lot of iconic songs, including “Me and Bobby McGee.”

  12. “…when you snuff out or outsource chaos.”

    This could have largely swelled up in the 60s. The oft-hated Adorno at least had many interesting takes on music theory, etc

  13. Each pond gone,
    I’m not sure what you’re suggesting about Adorno and his take on pop music and other pop-cult forms.

    I mean, his conclusion that combining protest with music or other commercial entertainments being a doomed format was surely a conclusion that was common in no time, across many theories and disciplines.

    Anyhow, though it’s not exactly the same thing. but among the futurist pop-n-techno-minded philosophers and proto-pundits, I think Neil Postman, of “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” fame was among the most prescient, or, more specifically, was the one who most compellingly and accurately twinned developments of technology with trends of media consciousness and opinion. A lot of his views really became quite prescient; moreso than Todd Gitlin’s and all the other Marxist-driven media theorists, which was to say most of them.

  14. @nikcrit- I never read Postman’s AOTD, though I think it’s too bad that his view of Huxley being more spot-on than Orwell isn’t more widely dispensed. Adorno’s straight philosophy, which many seem to brand as ‘Marxist’ is stuff I’ve never approached. Just some straight up music/aesthetic theory. Interestingly his music (he composed a little) has overwhelming affinities with the everted and atonal Schoenberg, while he nonetheless had this to say about jazz, which was commonly put forth as concrete proof of impending apocalypse in his day:

    “…as a whole, the perennial sameness of jazz consists not in a basic organization of the material within which the imagination can roam freely and without inhabitation, as within an articulate language, but rather in the utilization of certain well-defined tricks, formulas, and clichés to the exclusion of everything else.” [advanced elements such as montage, shock, and technological production techniques, did not validate jazz for Adorno. For him], “jazz, a phantasmagoria of modernity, is illusory,” and provided but a “counterfeit freedom.”

  15. PA — George Jones didn’t cover “Mama Bake a Pie.” But there is a Drive By Truckers song called “George Jones Talkin Cell Phone Blues,” that is hilarious. Both on an album of previously unreleased material called The Fine Print, which I think has some of their best songs. “Uncle Frank” is powerful, and “TVA” is an interesting response to it. And their cover of Tom Petty’s “Rebel” is better than the original.

  16. O.T. & FWIW:

    IMO, the following clip is one of the most powerful moments in the history of cinema in depicting sleazy exploitation: the movie is “Taxi Driver” and shows prostitute Jody Foster “Iris” and pimp Harvey Keitel (Sport) slow dancing; Iris is sad and crestfallen within Sport’s swaying embrace; all the while, he mumbles exploitative sweet-nothings to Iris to pull her further into his sleazy web and employ, i.e. “I’m a lucky man, baby, to feel this special feeling that I can only get with you, etc.”

    This effect alone is powerful but then Scorsese drops the killer detail that in this scene: a closeup by the camera of Sport’s grip around a tearful Iris’ shoulder that reveals a lone long and feminine red fingernail on Sport’s pinkie, which somehow just perfectly captures the depraved exploitation and sleaze involved; that, contrasting with the adolescently ripe look of vulnerability and need on Iris’ face just elevates this seemingly modest scene into classic-moment stratosphere….Yikes…

  17. I never saw the movie. You’re right, the pinkie is a startling moment. All that monologue though… my experiences in those emotional situations is that silence rules the night…

  18. “All that monologue though… my experiences in those emotional situations is that silence rules the night…”

    Your opinion jibes with my usual aesthetic preferences but in context I see where Scorsese was coming from: Keitel (Sport’s) sleazy steady mumble is specifically manipulative, with him saying just the kind of playground romance testaments that would entice and captivate a 14-year-old girl; that, with the painted fingernail and simply the fact that Sport is a man in his 30s combines to convey the most pitiful sleaze and transgression imaginable, which makes the scene so moving—– the sympathy it generates for Iris, who’s so purely revealed to be the naive girl she is.
    Then there’s the context of this particular American film era; earliy-to-mid 70s, an apex in American cinema, with narrative realism at the fore inmovies like Taxi Driver, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, etc. soon thereafter came the Star Wars trilogy and things changed forever, as films became just another product with the bottom line being cultivated as early as the script development stage; ‘the suits’ learned that films were too potentially profitable to leave solely in the hands of auteurs and directors. There’s another movie made right around the same time, “Panic in Needle Park,” which is sorta like a Grade-B “Taxi Driver,’ with narrative realism and its devotion to extended, ambience-setting dialogue indulged.

    It’s funny, you watch a lot of movies from, say, the late 60s to the early 70s, and you see how much more dialogue complexity and length is indulged; scripts had much more faith in the viewer’s brains and capacity for imagination then; the Star Wars trilogy was the dawn of the blockbuster age, in which from the get-go the goal was often to turn out product that anyone from 14-to-50 would attend and pay for.

  19. Here’s George and Tammy with a more upbeat number about the future of country music from the album “One” in 1995 (Tammy’s last album). I don’t think anybody has filled their shoes, yet, or ever will.

  20. A common criticism of Taxi Driver is that those two are miscast.

    Viewing that clip, i think Harvey is believable as the white weirdo outlier who ‘makes it’ as a pimp in NYC, but that Jodi is not quite (believable) as the broken girl having to sell her ass.

  21. George Jones and Tammi Wynette are from Texas, or that part of the country, at least?

    All the new kids on the block
    they got country rock and it’s spoken hard
    spreading like a wildfire out of control
    shining like diamonds on the stage
    burnin in the hearts of a brand new age
    you can hear it all over the world no matter where you go

    They’re playing our song
    telling our story
    making country music in a blaze of glory
    Keepin our tradition goin strong
    and when they reach their destination
    hope they say they got some inspiration
    from listening to the radio and playin our song

    *****************

    What would they say now?

  22. George was born in Texas. Tammy was born on a farm in Mississippi and had to pick cotton until she got married at age 17. The country music on FM radio really sucks for the most part these days. I think they would agree with my sentiment. Here’s one more: Tammy Wynette and George Jones perform “We Go Together” live in 1973 at Old Plantation Music Park in Lakeland, FL (where they lived then).

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