“I’ve got this camera click, click, clickin’ in my head,” said Elvis Costello in “I’m Not Angry.” These following songs, f-stop at f-off, offer up some cherished memories of put-downs and general piss-offedness. Here are my Kodak moments:
11. “Waitress In The Sky” by the Replacements. A mild enough rebuke, perhaps, but I’ve had my own share of problems with stewardesses, too–so this time it’s personal:
Sanitation expert and a maintenance engineer
Garbage man, a janitor and you my dear
A real union flight attendant, my oh my
You ain’t nothin’ but a waitress in the sky…
10. “Reelin’ In The Years” by Steely Dan. See you in September…then again:
You been tellin’ me you’re a genius
Since you were seventeen
In all the time I’ve known you
I still don’t know what you mean
The weekend at the college
Didn’t turn out like you planned
The things that pass for knowledge
I can’t understand.
9. “Holiday In Cambodia” by the Dead Kennedys. It may have been more of an extended weekend at the college, but real life still has its rude awakenings:
So you been to school
For a year or two
And you know you’ve seen it all
In daddy’s car
Thinkin’ you’ll go far
Back east your type don’t crawl.
Play ethnicky jazz
To parade your snazz
On your five grand stereo
Braggin’ that you know
How the niggers feel cold
And the slums got so much soul.
8.“Stupid Thing” by Aimee Mann. She makes me feel like shit:
Maybe that’s just how I am
to fall where I stand, or I’m
weak for that kind of man
one who looks helpless and brave
but you turned into a coward
I don’t care for the parts you saved.
You stupid thing.
7. “Parting Gift” by Fiona Apple. Okay, at least we’re good for something, but I still feel like shit:
Oh you silly stupid pastime of mine
You were always good for rhyme.
7. “Mercury Poisoning” by Graham Parker. Spittle virtually flies off albums like “Squeezin’ Out Sparks” from the trenchant relationship attacks. This time around, Graham aims at his old record company–but hey, nothing personal. Right?:
For them it’s inconvenience for me it’s hell
The geriatric staff think we’re freaks
They couldn’t sell kebabs to the Greeks, the geeks
Inaction speaks, and …
…Is this a Russian conspiracy, no it’s just idiocy
Is this a Chinese burn
I gotta dinosaur for a representative
It’s got a small brain and refuses to learn
6. “God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols. The Sex Pistols griped about their record company, too, but they also had enemies in higher places– and were gracious enough to remember them:
God save the queen
The fascist regime
They made you a moron
God save the queen
She ain’t no human being
There is no future
in England’s dreaming.
5. “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones” by Fear. They’re bad, they’re city-wide:
New York’s alright if you like drunks in your doorway!
New York’s alright if you wanna freeze to death!
New York’s alright if you wanna get mugged or murdered!
New York’s alright if you like saxophones!
4. “Brilliant Mistake” by Elvis Costello. There was a reason that “Armed Forces” was originally called “Emotional Fascism.” By the time of “King Of America,” Elvis was branching out, and toning down the venom a bit while remaining just as caustic:
She said that she was working for the ABC News
It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use
Her perfume was unspeakable
It lingered in the air
Like her artificial laughter
Her mementos of affairs
“Oh” I said “I see you know him”
“Isn’t that very fortunate for you”
And she showed me his calling card
He came third or fourth and there were more than one or two.
He was a fine idea at the time
Now he’s a brilliant mistake
3. “Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. Familiar, but never loses its fulminatory force. Though I would’ve thought Bob could’ve fit in “fulminatory” somewhere amid the language that he used:
Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They’re all drinkin’, thinkin’ that they got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you’d better take your diamond ring, you’d better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.
2. “How Do You Sleep” by John Lennon. Just in case anyone wondered how John and Paul were getting along after the split, John spells it out in some vicious but petulant cheap shots. “The only thing you done was Yesterday/ And since you’re gone you’re just Another Day,” offers Lennon, but it really doesn’t matter because “Those freaks were right when they said you was dead.” Moreover, John hits “the cute one“ where he thinks it might hurt the most:
A pretty face may last a year or two
But pretty soon they’ll see what you can do
The sound you make is muzak to my ears
You must have learned something in all those years
Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?
1. “Idiot Wind” by Bob Dylan. It’s Bob’s world, you just piss him off in it. Dylan’s a little more inclusive in his finger-pointing here, bringing himself finally into the fray, too. Mr. Anti-Congeniality gets the top nod here for his transition to a pan-discontentedness and a certain empathy. He’s mad at the world and everyone in it, but at almost eight minutes, he has time for both individualized conferences and self-recriminations. Here’s how “Idiot Wind” plays out in the closing stanzas:
Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull,
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You’re an idiot, babe.
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.
I can’t feel you anymore, I can’t even touch the books you’ve read
Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishin’ I was somebody else instead.
Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to ecstasy,
I followed you beneath the stars, hounded by your memory
And all your ragin’ glory.
I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I’m finally free,
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me.
You’ll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above,
And I’ll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love,
And it makes me feel so sorry.
Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats,
Blowing through the letters that we wrote.
Idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves,
We’re idiots, babe.
It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.
I was going to tack on some honorable mentions, but, being the idiot that I am, it would be a wonder that I’d still know how to breathe any more life into this compilation of contempt. But I’m thinking others might be able to enrich and embellish . . .