Saturday, 26 August 2017

NEW ENTRY: They made The Shaggs sound like Yes...

I'm continuing to work my way through Stephin Merrit's audio-autobiography, 50 Song Memoir, one disc at a time... though I appear to have got stuck on disc two because it's bloody excellent, particularly the years '77 - '80. I've already featured '80 London By Jetpack here, and included '79 Rock 'n' Roll Will Ruin Your Life in the ICA I did over at JC's place. '77 may be the best "I hate you" song ever written and I will find the appropriate place for it soon, but today I have to talk about this...

The Magnetic Fields - The Blizzard of '78

One ten year old was found after three weeks
In a snowdrift ten feet from his door
Some fell asleep in their cars and awakened no more

25 people died shovelling snow
Have that done by somebody you hate
166 looters arrested, but wait

I spent the blizzard of '78
On a commune in Northern Vermont
With all the Isaac Asimov anybody could want...

I'm sorry, but if those aren't the best opening lines to any song you've heard this year, then I want to know what you think is better.  But wait...

This isn't actually a song about a blizzard at all. It's about Stephin Merritt's first forays into popular music at the tender age of 13. And the lyrical references are beyond sublime... if also very, very obscure. The musos among you will surely get a chuckle.

Music was very much not allowed
So we we said, "Hey kids, let's start a band!"
Proof that Ganesh loves us
There was no tape deck at hand

The first band I'd had was called "One and a Half"
We were a duo, technically
So if Tonto's Expanding Head Band was a band
So were we... 
It gets better though. To whit:
I played guitar, Chris played tin cans
Caroline played tambourine
Chris was 11, Caroline 12, I 13

We called ourselves "The Black Widows"
We weren't the last nor the first
But we were almost certainly by far the worst

We made The Cramps sound orchestral
That's an achievement, I guess
As for rehearsal
We made The Shaggs sound like Yes
I dunno. Maybe this is just the kind of thing which only appeals to me because I'm obviously a bit weird, but The Blizzard of '78 has become one of my favourite songs of the year. Even though Merritt has chosen to record the music for it as though it's being played by himself and his rubbish pre-teen friends.

I call that genius. Your mileage may vary...

1 comment:

  1. As you note, there are a bunch of fun references in The Blizzard of '78. Impressive Merritt put so much care into the lyrics when you know he wrote 50 (or more) songs. He seems very hard working and diligent. An ambitious project.
    Of the tracks I've heard, I particularly like You Can Never Go Back to New York, and also '85 Why I Am Not a Teenager(which you previously highlighted)


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