In this very exciting new feature, regular workin’ stiffs just like you (and Mitt Romney) ask for my opinion and regret it later!

Dear Run-DMSteve,
There are small moments in songs – a guitar riff, a single lyric, a repeated refrain – that resonate so strongly that I have an overpowering emotional reaction to them. As I was driving to work this morning, I heard Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” It came out in 1968, when I was 11 years old. I have no idea why I was so moved by the music/lyric combination of “And I need you more than want you/and I want you for all time/and the Wichita lineman/is still on the line.”

Any thoughts?
–Accused of Lurking 

Dear Lurking,
Here’s a specific thought: Glen Campbell had a good voice, not in the Sinatra or Tony Bennett league or in the second rank with Bobby Darin, but about on a par with Dean Martin. That’s not a slam. Dino and Glen knew how to use what they had to the fullest. (Sinatra was so phenomenal that he could goof off in a song and still sound good.) Like Martin, Campbell almost never got anything great to sing. That’s one of the reasons “Wichita Lineman” stands out among his recordings. It’s a terrific song and he puts everything into it, but in his Glen Campbellian, low-key way. The arrangement is a sort of countrified Nelson Riddle, but it works here, perhaps because Campbell sings like an Everyman. The words and the music enter your heart, even if you’re just 11, and the line you quote powers it all. I’d never really thought about it, but you nailed it.

Here’s a general thought: Proust thought that food was the ultimate time machine to the past, and that was probably true when music was not available for replay. You couldn’t “own” music in human history until the eye blink of the past 100 years. Now music has replaced food as the time machine. We experience them much the same, but music is more powerful. Why that is, I can’t say, as I’ve expended my philosophical budget for this question. I just know that music can make you cry. Can food? (I’m talking about food that hasn’t been prepared by my mother.)

Special D adds, “What always got me was the lift in his voice from ‘still on the…’ to ‘…li-i-ine’ followed by the telegraph-key sounds. I pictured this man’s yearning voice stretching thin, traveling the wires, and reaching his lover. That, and the masculine but non-macho poetry of ‘I need you more than want you/and I want you for all time’ just kills me.”

Keep drivin’ the main road, Lurk!

Dear Run-DMSteve,
I like to listen to the jazz station on the radio while I’m making dinner. I would never consider myself a jazz aficionado; it’s more of a relaxing backdrop while I’m concentrating on my cooking. Tonight, of course [Feb. 14], there was someone singing “My Funny Valentine.” That song has always struck me in a weird place and I can’t explain why. It always feels like the wail of a wounded animal, no matter if it’s Frank Sinatra or Elvis Costello or Rickie Lee Jones. Where does that come from?
–Perplexed Valentine Girl

Dear Perp,
“My Funny Valentine” is an odd one; it’s short, yet it packs some ambiguous meanings. “Your looks are laughable/unphotographable.” Is the singer in love with his partner despite her flaws? Does he love her for them? Is he GGG or just a manipulative asshole?

Is your figure less than Greek
Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?

But don’t change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is Valentine’s Day

This is too close to Billy Joel territory (“She’s Always a Woman”) for me, man.

The music isn’t exactly a winner either. Your “wounded animal” description is apt. I don’t know what kind of song this is but I wouldn’t play it anywhere near Valentine’s Day.

Next year, ask for the chocolates.

Dear Run-DMSteve,
Your opinions are rubbish, mate. Did you have any experience writing music criticism before lobbing this blog at us? Or are you mucking about in blogland because someone at your paying gig gave you the boot? Have you any qualifications at all up your sleeve, or are you having us on? And just an FYI: Chris Martin rules.

Dear Sexy,
I haven’t received any training in writing about music. I can’t even read music. I’ve never written about music before, except in tenth grade when I reviewed the J. Geils Band’s Full House. I’m still proud of my lead: “Rock is rhythm.” I didn’t even know about sex yet.

It was Special D’s idea that I embark on this voyage. She knew I had run out of crafts projects. She also felt that she shouldn’t be the only person who had to listen to me babble about music. Spreading me around has taken the burden off her. I am indebted to Special D for this fab idea and she is indebted to my readers for egging me on.

I immediately set goals for my blogging career. I would be deluged with free CDs and other band merch, an all-expenses-paid trip to SXSW, and money. Crumpled singles, jars of pennies, checks with funny animals on them, and my favorite: four-figure transfers via PayPal. This didn’t happen.

However, I can report that Domino’s is making money from my blog. Every time one of their ads appears at Run-DMSteve, Loyal Reader Krafty orders one of their pizzas. I hope you’re enjoying them, Loyal Reader Krafty, because Domino’s won’t even send me a thank-you note! I can’t get anyone to pay me for an ad, and the only way to keep the ads out is to pay WordPress, which doesn’t sound like revenue generation to me (though it does to WordPress).

So you see, Sexy, I have no real qualifications beyond some spare time and the ability to type wicked fast. All I know how to do is to put things in groups and compare them. I’ve been listening to the radio all my life, and my head is brimming with everything I’ve listened to. I keep finding ways to connect the dots. Which is more than I can say for Coldplay.

I’m back in The Nervous Breakdown after a lengthy hiatus while I wrestled with my novel. So far the novel is ahead two falls to one. I might have to resort to Plan B and install a plot.

  1. Michael Eichner says:

    Novel? Awesome! Where’s the novel blog? Some chapter posts? Maybe a little blurb tossed our way. Go Steve Go!

    Fun formate for this blog.

    A different take on ‘Wichita Lineman.’ The writer (go figure). Check out Jimmy Webb’s credits and check your heart for “overpowering emotional reaction” to his other songs: ‘Up, Up and Away,’ ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix,’ ‘Galveston,’ and the landmark in flooding sentiment ‘MacArthur Park.’ You’ll never experience either cake or rain the same again.

    Authors have illustrated that smell is the most powerful time machine.

    I kinda like Sexycoldplayguy8417, but you’re so mean to him.

    Novel! Novel! Novel! My chant will never die.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Congratulations on raining on everyone’s parade, frostyb2! Just when we’re all feeling good about Glen Campbell and his lonesome lineman, you have to dig up “MacArthur Park”!! I am illin’. But I stand by what I wrote….I gave Sexycoldplayguy 300+ words, which I felt was generous. I’m sure when he gets someone to read those words to him, he’ll feel the same way….At the moment I have three chapters of my novel and half a synopsis. The latter is kind of a problem. Writing a novel when you don’t exactly know where it’s going is like Rhapsody removing the labels from all their channels. You never know when you’re going to hear “MacArthur Park.” At the moment I’m concerned that my story is being run by the three craziest characters, since they’re the easiest to write. But if I can make some substantial organizational progress, I might start a novel blog. Blogging is becoming my way of life anyway. Thank you for encouraging me. Other people might not thank you.

      • Michael Eichner says:

        Sorry about the shower on your parade, but not the showering of praise. As far as half a synopsis, not knowing when a ‘MacArthur Park’ is going to show up certainly brings tension into a story line. And what rule says writing a novel can’t be easy or driven by three crazy characters. If blogging about a novel keeps you from writing on the novel, then don’t do it. You are a funny and creative dude. Write On!

      • Run-DMSteve says:

        The thought of a “MacArthur Park” lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce, is sobering….

        Thanks for your concern and your supportive words, but blogging doesn’t keep me from writing my novel. Unemployment and looking for employment keeps me from writing my novel. (Also, I can’t stop watching the Republican primaries. This is the best primary season ever!) Blogging is what I do to take a break from the rest of my life.

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