My first Friday in a while without Oscar – his first Friday at school. Strange week this week, very strange…lots of cool things happening (I met Robert Forster, new podcast up with Charlotte Yates, got a bit of reading done – tomorrow I’m the MC at one of the LitCrawl events, one showcasing some of the country’s best essayists) but Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. And that was the buzzkill for almost everyone down here. Unfathomable. Or whatever.
So for this round of the Five Songs For A Friday it’s a Trump edition…
1. Randy Newman – Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)
Talking last night in the bar about Randy Newman and how his Lonely At The Top was written for Frank Sinatra, and how Frank was insulted and/or refused to get the joke. Nowadays a person would be on it straight away. We might see Trump on SNL singing this soon. And not even the Alec Baldwin-Trump, the actual real Trump. Well, enjoy this while you can…
2. Robert Forster – Danger In The Past
I sat with Forster out the back of the Southern Cross on Wednesday morning. I bought him a coffee and a slice. And we talked for half an hour about his book, his songs, his band. He was odd. But charming. Intelligent. Later that day I dropped Oscar off at his grandparents’ so I could attend the Forster book launch at Slow Boat. And when I went back to get Osc we had the news that Trump was going to be President. Weird. People have been saying good riddance to the Clintons and Obama. Good riddance to politicians from politics? Weird sentiment. We’ll not see the likes of Obama again. Not in our lifetimes. He had class and grace and understood humanity, even offered it.
3. Drive-By Truckers – Ever South
Home from the book launch, the kid in bed, a whisky in hand I sat and listened right through to the new Truckers album. It is one of the best of the year. A stacked dance-card, I could name 10 Best Album of The Year candidates, easily. But this probably deserves it. These Truckers must have been devastated by the news. Their album should heard by everyone. It is a grim, thoughtful masterpiece. (After listening to this I played Karl Blau again and then listened to Lucinda, and wrote this poem – all connected).
4. R.E.M – Orange Crush
Plenty of people shared a link to It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) and a few other R.E.M. songs seemed to fit the mood and take the temperature. I saw Everybody Hurts linked to more than once also. But I thought of this song. And I thought of this band a bit this week – not least because Michael Stipe gives a great interview on Alec Baldwin’s podcast and he even asks Alec about playing Donald. Baldwin then says that Crush With Eyeliner is on his gym workout playlist, it pumps him up, makes him feel good. Last night at the bar another music conversation: How R.E.M. handled becoming Stadium Superstars better than anyone. Quite the opposite of U2 – who so quickly became absurd. R.E.M. might have gone on a few years too long, could have done with calling it quits a bit earlier than they did, and one or two albums towards the end that didn’t (really) need to happen. But they never embarrassed themselves. Well, there was an embarrassment of riches from them. That’s for rather than against of course. Phenomenal band.
5. Aimee Mann – Can’t You Tell?
Full circle in a sense, Aimee Mann takes her cue here from Randy Newman, surely. A first-person inner-attack song. She sums up Trump’s pettiness. I believe she has it spot on with her assessment that when Obama roasted Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondent’s dinner that was the trigger for Trump. A petty man who couldn’t handle being laughed at, couldn’t go with it. “That bastard making fun of me in front of all my peers/Those people think I own this town, you’re stripping all my gears/Well guess what Mr. President, I’ll be seeing you in four years”. [Randy Newman had his own new political song just recently too] Bittersweet, grim, whatever…any time we get a new song from Aimee Mann [and/or Randy Newman] is a reason to celebrate. The death of intellectualism will only mean more slogans-as-songs, more dumb anthems for dumb people. We need to hope for more treasures. Any song from Aimee Mann is almost certainly one of the best-written songs you’ll hear. I miss her. I want more from her. Yet she’s already given us so much, far too many of her songs (and albums) languishing. A great shame.