PERFORMER: RICHARD THOMPSON
SONGWRITER: RICHARD THOMPSON
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1991
COMMENTS: This is a member of that rarest of breeds: a novelty song that sticks. Though I was immediately stuck on the song's hooks and dark humor, my natural reaction was to discount them. However, I noticed eventually that the song was still kicking my ass a couple of years later, and also that it kicked ass on almost everyone who heard it.
The lyrics are a series of vignettes of messed up suburbanites, such as the man who takes off his clothes and starts masturbating in a train full of commuters - explaining all the while "In my country, this is definitely not offensive." Thompson is a Muslim, and one interpretation has it that this song is his reaction to all the brouhaha over the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, as if The Satanic Verses amounted to the same thing and was of course offensive no matter what the guy says to try to excuse it. This explanation almost makes sense.
The thing that really makes it stick, though, is the instrumental jam built onto the verses. The record flies along on a taut, quickly paced jam built on some psycho stand-up bass runs combined with maracas and repeated snare drum rolls that would seem frantic if they were not so perfect and precisely controlled. The whole thing is topped off with some weird guitar chords pulsing along like a telegraph. The whole thing comes off sounding almost like jazz, probably more because of the pure sophistication than anything else. This jams like a bitch even if the novelty has worn off the words - which it won't.
The other part of the song is the chorus, which is completely different musically. It is a simple little "happy neighbors" theme that sounds like a parody of Fred Rogers. It has just the simplest cheesy electric piano chords and rhythms for accompaniment, stopping the groove cold. This is probably mostly what made me want to discount the whole record, but I have come to appreciate the chorus. It sets up a good contrast to the verses, and helps to cleanse the palette, and it completes the thought, offering two interpretations of the same phenomenon.
So come on in, for it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Feels like home to me.
RICHARD AND LINDA THOMPSON PHOTOS - FAIRPORT CONVENTION PHOTOS
DVD Review: Tony Palmer's Film of Fairport Convention & Matthews Southern Comfort
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