Friday, June 26, 2009

A small R.I.P. for the era of Farrah and Michael Jackson.

No, I didn't have the haircut. Yes, I wanted it.

Yes, I bought Thriller when it came out. No, I haven't listened to it for 20 years. But the Jackson 5's "ABC" and "I Want You Back" are two of the greatest pop songs ever.

Liner Notes

           from the digital re-release of The Reckless Pedestrians Walk the Dog

 Dawn Potter


   1. Empty Bed Blues


We debuted in a dorm basement

painted dirt green,

with low ceilings and dollar beers.

All our songs were covers of Carpenters tunes


that the lead singer had learned in high school chorus.

We were trapped by the past—

the effervescent desires

of Casey Kasem,


the static buzz of AM radio.

What options did we have?

You hear folks bad-mouth the Carpenters,

but try to sing like Karen


if you’re a fat nineteen-year-old boy

with glasses and a narrow range.

Nothing works out the way you hope,

as we discovered that night,


the room emptying out fast, folding chairs

parked against the walls, blank as a bus station.

It was depressing,

but we’d read enough Kafka


to accept misfortune.

Confusion is chronic;

and anyway, only the Japanese

are doing Carpenters covers these days.



    2. Seven Day Fool


In the eighties the natural place for a girl

in a band was on bass,

except if you were the Go-Gos.

We were past that Linda McCartney-and-Wings shit.


In our yellow-curtained apartment

we embraced our instruments like babies,

trying to force three chords

into the lush harmonies

of Burt Bacharach.

The cat yowled; neighbors quarrelled

far into the night.  Only

when the drummer began fiddling


morosely with the zipper on Sticky Fingers

did the answer come to us,

the last notes of “Close to You” fading

swiftly into the forgotten past,


Mick Jagger’s threat to remove his trousers on stage

rising like a phoenix—oh, we were young,

and in love, and happy to take ours off too;

and we could play all the notes!


It was like seeing Rothko for the first time,

then turning to the nearest stranger

and shouting,

What the fuck have I been doing with my life?


    3. Look What Thoughts Will Do


The guitarist stored a tattered copy

of On the Road in his case

and randomly read aloud from it

between sets.  The bass player


toiled through every break;

her fingers toughened like a farmer’s,

while the guitarist, pacing,

intoned Kerouac at the ceiling:


“ . . . arc, pop out, brake in, run. . . .

Somewhere along the line the pearl. . . .

‘Terry,’ I pleaded with all my soul. . . . ”

The roadies kept quitting,


the bathrooms smelled like puke,

and even “Freebird” can get you down

on a rainy night in March,

far out in the Amish wasteland.


It was the gulag, but we were alive:

catching the last train to the city,

dropping our cases on the stairs,

rolling into bed at dawn

with the crows outside just starting

to quarrel and the garbage men

slamming their loads

in the tender morning light.


    4. Love Is the Drug


And here we all send our thanks

to Jon Bon Jovi for his good advice

about shopping-mall acoustics,

which served us so well in the years


spent traveling from one Ground Round

to the next, bodies fueled by Coors

and dry yellow popcorn, fan club asleep

on the jukebox, the rest of us pounding out


ballads at two a.m. like this was the last

honkytonk on earth, fluorescent lights

faltering off one by one: bulldozers

could be moving in from the west


to destroy the place by morning,

and only electricity would save us—

AC bleeding through the wires,

guitar solos fervent as Jesus,


drummer hunched over, dripping with sweat,

and the lead singer taking off his glasses

to rub his eyes, calm and exalted,

like Socrates waiting for hemlock.


    5. Baby Let’s Play House


Some say Walk the Dog is the worst album we ever made.

But intonation aside, this was a record about love:

the purest, most pop-driven kind—

four happy people in a band, kissing each others’ hands


on the train, waking up at noon,

eating cornflakes without milk and playing our record collection

in alphabetical order because that kind of asceticism

would make us great.

Listen to every Boston album, and you’ll soon learn

how much eleven-year-old boys crave beauty,

in whatever surreal form.

We had the big picture in our heads—


rock-and-roll as undergraduate abstraction:

life spent cheek to jowl,

the guitarist’s head in the drummer’s lap,

King Lear parked upside-down on a speaker,


unread, hissing and muttering under his breath,

all of us singing “Sweet Jane”

as if Lou Reed had written it with us in mind—

screeching so loud that the little girl next door


banged on the wall in ecstasy

while her parents, on their knees,

begged her to think hard, honey, and please,

please, remember where she’d hidden the Moped keys.

[from Boy Land & Other Poems (Deerbrook Editions, 2004)].

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