We'll have each other, all they've got is them... Well, friends, it is Wodnesdæg and time for another Song for Odin. I am a bit swamped and slammed and staggering under the weight a million things, real and imagined. Or, as the status legend reads: "Stressed: you can barely move a handspan with this load!" Nevertheless, the show must go on... But first, a word on Song for Odin. The "series" exists for its own sake with no specific aims, ends, or stratagems. It started spontaneously and abruptly when I received a live video from 1998, and it could end just as abruptly when I run out of material or... interest. But one unofficial goal has been to see if I could manage to stick with it long enough write up the minor secrets of every single song in the MTX / Dr Frank catalog. One limiting factor is, I have to have some video resource to bounce off of. Some songs just haven't got those in easy reach (though I keep finding some here and there and could contrive to create some when needed.) Anyhow, I recently did some work inspecting and cleaning up my BMI catalog (just to make sure all was in order in view of the YouTube copyright shenanigans I've written of here and there) and it looks like there are around 200 published songs in it. The total number of released songs will be a bit higher, since it includes covers and Jon von's songs, all of which are fair game for this. So far, if my count is right, this will be the 93rd song, including duplicate entries, of which there have been a few. 93 down, one hundred something to go. We'll see how far we get. While I was doing this, I realized that I hadn't yet done a write-up for this one, "High School Is the Penalty for Transgressions Yet to Be Specified," from 2016's King Dork Approximately the Album. I think it's one of my best, and weirdest, songs, and there happens to be a video, so here it is: https://youtu.be/42IwDDWEUUQ As you know, KDATA consists of 12 songs from the King Dork books. Ten of them literally appear in the books, written by the narrator Tom Henderson, the conceit being that my band is kind of covering "his" songs. Of the remaining two, one is "King Dork," a theme song which preceded its book by a decade, and the other is this one, which is more of a zoom-out, stepping off from the books' themes. The title is a subtitle heading in King Dork, and the song, alone among the songs on the "balbum," is narrated by a Tom-like character who has grown up and is looking back on the high school experience, concluding that "high school never really ever ends." Which is quite true, it doesn't. How it came about was, I wanted six songs from each book for the album and I only had five from King Dork, so I had to come up with one to balance the sides. I'd considered doing a Bubblegum cover ("Yummy Yummy Yummy..." or something) but instead I resorted to the time-honored expedient, often done with the Bible, where you open the book at random, point to a "verse," and do whatever it says. (Hoping you don't get something from Leviticus, I sometimes add when I tell this story, getting a laugh, usually, if often a confused one.) And in this case, "High School Is the Penalty..." is what I landed on. It's a great title, but hard to construe as a lyric, much less a chorus. It didn't rhyme and it didn't scan. (I certainly wasn't going to do one of those songs where the lyrics never mention the title. I tend to hate that.) I had set myself a dilemma, but I like assignments because I like the field of operations being limited by imposed parameters rather than comprising everything there is in the world, i.e., the blank page of eternity. So I took some lessons I learned from W. S. Gilbert and Irving Berlin: if it doesn't fit, make it fit. Almost anything can be done with enough determination and a willingness to look a little foolish. Now I'm going to quote the great and very MTX-friendly rock journalist Ed Masley here: "This is the second single from the Mr. T Experience’s first release in 12 long years, and it perfectly filters the essence of the great Ray Davies’ most inspired moments of the very early ’70s through Dr. Frank’s distinctive lyrical and vocal style. He sets the tone with a wistful delivery of “To anyone with eyes, it’s plain to see / That high school is the penalty / for transgressions yet to be specified / The sentence begins as soon as they’ve got you inside” to the tune of what sounds like it could be an actual school song. But the sentence doesn’t end there. As Dr. Frank notes in the following verse, "One day you’ll graduate, but you will find, my friends / That high school never really ever ends / The haves will still be hounding the have nots / Though they smile at you while they’re hatching their plots.” It’s a brilliant arrangement, effortlessly navigating several different musical motifs with unerring pop sensibilities... What really needs to happen now is for someone to take this album and this book and build a big-screen musical around the two." Well, I second that emotion, Ed, and if you think I'm not gonna quote a blurb that compares me to Ray Davies whenever the chance arises, you don't know me very well. The first melody (in the single verse) is indeed meant to evoke a school song. The chorus is a Gilbert & Sullivan-aping "patter song," which also borrows the Gilbert "classical" poesy technique of liberal rhyming of Es and Is. The romantic, robot-and-me-against-the-world bridge features some country guitar pop up licks and a gentle preacher-style hymnal leader recitation (thanks Bobby), touching on one of the book's main themes of the "Sex alliance against society." My favorite bit is probably this line: "we'll have each other, all they've got is them." If there's one distinctive, characteristic Dr Frank line, I imagine that'd be it. But a close second at least in my capacity as a pedant, is the King Dork-ified cribbed line from the 1963 Peter Weiss play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (usually known as "Marat/Sade") featured in the Bonzo Dog Band song (and also appearing in Love's "The Red Telephone"): they are normal and they want your freedom. (Bet ya didn't know that!) Our friend and celebrated film guy Jonathan London generously volunteered his time, expertise, and resources to produce the music video, which he did as a terrific short film inspired by the song, and which is obviously far, far beyond our usual production values. When we have them at all, that is. Later, after the smoke cleared, he gave me, as a souvenir the briefcase carried by the protagonist, whom I met at our last show in LA, which was a bit surreal. I still use the briefcase to carry my cords. Boy, that was longer than I expected. And I should stop now. There will most likely be another Song for Odin next week. Till then, be good to each other, because, well you know, each other is all you've got. notes: -- Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - "We Are Normal": https://youtu.be/Gn3hlyCv_f8 -- Love - "The Red Telephone": https://youtu.be/EtYS3EYjVyk -- Marat/Sade: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marat/Sade #music #songs #video #mtxforever #minds
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