Thursday, April 10, 2008

David Bowie: The Thin White Oompa Loompa (PLUS: the best Morrissey song I have ever written)

After last night’s karaoke, I find myself thinking about David Bowie’s “China Girl,” another monotone classic I can handle, and I’m reminded that Bowie once said that one of his biggest influences was Anthony Newley, the man behind the songs from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, including “The Candy Man.”

Given Bowie’s Newley influence, his mime training, and his heavily made-up fairy-tale-like appearance in videos like “Ashes to Ashes” (or his Humpty-Dumpty-like costume for his performance of “The Man Who Sold the World” decades ago on Saturday Night Live), mustn’t we conclude that Bowie is, in some sense, the thin, tall Oompa Loompa?

And speaking of effete, Broadway-showtune-esque rockers, I must note that while I have been as enthusiastic about the Smiths as anyone over the past two and a half decades, Morrissey’s solo song “America Is Not the World,” which I only heard for the first time this year, is so self-parodically awful and ham-fistedly left-wing…I feel I could die.

Sample lyrics (forgive me):

America, your head’s too big
Because, America, your belly’s too big…
In America, the land of the free, they say
And of opportunity, in a just and truthful way
But where the president is never black, female, or gay…
In America, it brought you the hamburger
Well, America, you know where you can shove your hamburger
And don’t you wonder why in Estonia they say,
Hey you, you big fat pig, you fat pig, you fat pig…

Note: Morrissey is gay and vegetarian. Why he picked Estonia, where they love us for opposing the Soviets, I have no idea, but he may have chosen it randomly off a map. That part about the president may soon prove inaccurate as well.

The whole thing’s embarrassing. Luckily, I have written a better Morrissey song than the actual Morrissey song above. Given his fondness for the subjects of crime, faded rock stars, and sexual transgression, I chose as my subject the harrowing case of has-been rock star Gary Glitter, who potentially faced the death penalty for having sex with underage girls in Vietnam (but ended up just going to prison — I left that part out). I call the song “Glitter in Vung Tau” (to be sung to the tune of, you know, some imaginary typical Morrissey song, whatever). And a one, two, one-two-three-four:

Glitter in Vung Tau
You’re bitter, stung, then — pow! [with gunshot sound effect, but, like, subtly]
And all the pretty girls they’ll frown

Rainy jungle…rainy jungle
Girls like landmines — and how you stumbled
[Vietnamese male voice:] An tu hinh, an tu hinh!
[Vietnamese female voice, whispering:] “Death penalty, death penalty!”
[Morrisey:] Onto him, onto him, unto Him…
Rainy jungle…rainy jungle…

[Twenty second interlude: rain noises, cawing birds, monkey screeches, crying girl, machine gun fire, blends seamlessly into throbbing disco music.]

La da dee, la da dee, da dee da da something something…

Oh, it’s death! for the disco king
Little girls they were his thing
Now his shroud to Britain’s shores they’ll bring
Never again to sing, to siiiiiiing

They’ll say he got his mortal due
But I’ll remember all that’s true
Rock n’ roll and this part, too
Rock n’ roll and this part, too

[fade with more la da dee da stuff and sound of Vietnamese girl
weeping, helicopter, etc.]


Xine said...

≥But where the president is never black, female, or gay.

≥That part about the president may soon prove inaccurate as well.

Oh my God! Do you mean John McCain is gay?!

[comment delayed due to spam filter.  sorry -- webmaster]

David said...

Morrissey lives in LA, does he not?

Todd Seavey said...

He did for several years (and in the beginning, of course, Manchester) but now lives in Rome. Bowie, wisely, has homes in both Manhattan and London (and seemed more gently satirical than Morrissey with the vague “I’m Afraid of Americans”).

On another Brit note, I successfully identified a song I’d never heard before as a Kinks song last night despite it being filtered through the intermediary device of a karaoke singer (“Autumn Almanac”). Pretty distinctively, uh, Kinky song, though.

jenny said...

I dunno, Todd. those lyrics are awfully straightforward to successfully masquerade as morrissey. you really need a more arcane allusion to little girls, or at the very least some mention of tear-streaked makeup.

and re: Bowie as oompa loompa – I’d like to thank you for seriously messing up a not-inconsiderable portion of my highschool sex fantasies. and they were already somewhat suspect, as that was Bowie’s labyrinth era. *sigh*

Todd Seavey said...

What is a fey English rocker to do?

Sex with a lass nearly six foot two

Eating gumdrops and Twizzlers and wearing tattoos

Covered in caramel and all kinds of goo

(I don’t like the looks of them!

Can’t eat candy and look so thin!)

Oomp loompa doopity doo

A cosmic messiah you’re going to screw

Birthing a superman new race, too

Like the Oompa Loompas doopity do!

Dylan said...

Yes, yes, yes, it’s my autumn almanac

I’ve always liked the Kinks, but recently they’ve become one of my favorite bands after listening to a few albums I’d never heard (except for the hits) — Arthur, The Village Green Preservation Society, and Muswell Hillbillies.

I’m not exactly sure what political views Ray Davies holds. He often comes across as an almost conservative traditionalist, both in his old-school British musical stylings and his lyrics that nostalgize a romantic past that he never knew — “Victoria,” “Picture Book,” “Village Green.” He even approaches luddism in some songs like “Apeman”.

You definitely get a sense of it in “20th Century Man” from Muswell Hillbillies:

This is the age of machinery,

A mechanical nightmare,

The wonderful world of technology,

Napalm, hydrogen bombs, biological warfare

You keep all your smart modern writers

Give me William Shakespeare

You keep all your smart modern painters

Ill take Rembrandt, Titian, Da Vinci and Gainsborough

But in the same song, he also waxes pretty libertarian:

I was born in a welfare state

Ruled by bureaucracy

Controlled by civil servants

And people dressed in grey

Got no privacy got no liberty

Cos the twentieth century people

Took it all away from me

Anyway, on yet another Brit note, my friend passed this along to me, commenting that you gotta admire Keith Richards’ ingenuity:

I wonder if he snorts his coke through candy straws …

Todd Seavey said...

I think an article in _Chronicles_, the paleoconservative magazine, talked about the same Davies pieces of evidence you mention (and even mentioned Morrissey in passing, since for all his leftism he sometimes throws in a dash of lamentation for declining cultural standards and lost glories of the old elites — not that he could ever be mistaken for anything but a leftist).

Davies has said enough traditionally-left things to qualify as a man of the left, I think (and certainly mocked conservatives — albeit gently — in “A Well-Respected Man”), but definitely has a paleo streak — more culturally-declinist than progressive, which may be the key. Perhaps a sort of left-paleo who might say (rightly or wrongly), “There was a time when neighbors helped neighbors instead of profit and welfare checks dominating the world.” Easier in the UK than in the U.S. to accompany such sentiments with a resentment of Tories and aristocrats and thus the right, I think.

He might make a good Chestertonian distributivist — but more about that when I review a Chesterton book in December (you see how much advance planning goes into this blog?).